(JEFFERSON CITY, MO)……After more than two months of delay, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his Caucus have finally released their proposal for the next round of COVID-19 relief. On Monday, congressional leaders unveiled a roughly $1 trillion stimulus proposal called the HEALS Act, which includes a $400 cut in unemployment benefits. The federal eviction moratorium expired last week and is not renewed in the bill, and a needed boost in food assistance is also not included.
“The HEALS Act does not go far enough and fails miserably on many crucial objectives,” said Jeanette Mott Oxford, Director of Policy and Organizing for Empower Missouri. “The plan does not meet the very real needs of Missouri families struggling with the pandemic and the recession. Because it offers neither adequate assistance, nor stimulus, it will make the recession longer and more painful.”
The impact on Missouri’s people and the state’s economy is severe. More than four in ten of Missouri’s households (43% percent) included someone who lost employment income between March 13 and June 23. Unprecedented numbers of people have been unable to purchase enough food or pay their rent. The blow to Missouri’s economy is reflected in plummeting state revenues, with a decline of $1 billion estimated FY2021 (10 percent below pre-COVID projections). That does not take into account reduced revenues hitting Missouri’s local governments.
Without additional federal aid, Missouri will not be able to provide the services needed to help its people recover and move forward. Gov. Parson has already announced withholdings of hundreds of millions of dollars to balance the state budget, including $286 million from K-12 education and $172 million from higher education. Congress must immediately negotiate a bipartisan agreement that would provide substantial and flexible aid to state and local governments.
Those without basic human needs must take priority, because food and shelter play a major role in determining health outcomes. The U.S. Senate should agree to provide $100 billion for emergency rental assistance, as the U.S. House did in the HEROES Act, and to broaden and extend the moratorium on evictions and utility disconnections. Congress must also increase the maximum benefit for SNAP by 15 percent, as well as extending the $600 unemployment benefit for Missourians who have lost their jobs.
“The COVID-10 pandemic affects us all, but it is not impacting all of us equally,” added Oxford. “Black, Latino, Indigenous, and immigrant people are being hit the hardest by the pandemic and recession. Decades of aggressive public policy that favored white households at the expense of others have left a legacy of inequality that is shaping who gets sick and/or dies and who has inadequate wages or resources to ride out a public health emergency.”
Empower Missouri is inviting its Food Security Coalition and Affordable Housing Coalition to contact U.S. Senators Roy Blunt and Josh Hawley to convey the urgency in Missouri. “Time is running out,” Oxford concluded. “The U.S. Senate should swiftly join the U.S. House in passing a stimulus package that is large enough to meet the growing needs of U.S. families, reduce state budget cuts, and stimulate local economies.”
Empower Missouri (www.EmpowerMissouri.org) is a statewide not-for-profit organization working to secure basic human needs and equal justice for every person in our state through coalition-building and advocacy. Founded as the Missouri Conference on Charities and Corrections in 1901, Empower Missouri has operated under four names in its 119-year history, but always with a focus on access to basic human needs and basic fairness.