Even though the final two weeks of the 2020 Legislative Session tempts us to focus all attention on Jefferson City just now, social justice advocates in Missouri cannot afford to do so. We must keep one eye focused on DC, because the first half of May is a crucial window of time in which we have the potential to shape the next coronavirus emergency package from our federal legislators. We ask you to read the briefing below and then to click on the Take Action link.
The federal government has already passed four bills to respond to the pandemic, but I cannot understate how crucial additional aid from our federal government is for Missouri. The April revenue numbers in Missouri are running 54 percent below those of a year ago. The St. Louis Business Journal reports that 450,000 Missourians, 14 percent of our workforce, has filed for unemployment. The deep cuts in the budget process in the Missouri General Assembly, currently nearing completion, makes clear that our state’s ability to meet essential obligations depends on additional federal stimulus funds.
Recurring cash payments for the most vulnerable families will be much needed. We can make sure households with low incomes receive additional help by strengthening nutrition, housing, and the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit (CTC) programs. Here are essential components that Empower Missouri asks that our eight U.S. Representatives and Senators Blunt and Hawley champion in the next federal stimulus package:
Benefits in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) should be increased by 15 percent. SNAP benefits are an excellent investment in a stronger economy, producing $1.54 billion in Gross Domestic Product growth for each $ 1 billion spent.
With a severe shortage of affordable housing in our state, we need a uniform national moratorium on evictions and foreclosures and approval of $100 billion in funding for emergency rental assistance as outlined by the National Low Income Housing Coalition for whom we are Missouri’s state level partner.
Workers with low incomes who are not raising children should be allowed to receive a refundable tax credit through EITC. This would benefit 341,500 adults in Missouri. An additional 798,600 children could also receive support from the CTC by fixing structural flaws in that program. These two tax system changes also have a dramatic racial equity impact, benefiting 158,000 Black and 39,000 Latino families in Missouri.
Finally we would ask for additional funds to be put into Byrne-JAG grants for law enforcement and corrections so that staff and inmates receive the Personal Protective Equipment they need and funds are made available for costs involved in release of inmates and their re-entry to the community. Reducing prison populations is an essential step in preventing widespread transmission of COVID-19 there.
Please Take Action today and invite your family, friends, and co-workers to do so as well.
Jeanette Mott Oxford