The woefully inadequate federal response to the economic suffering caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has proven that ensuring cash relief must be automatic, particularly for families living in poverty, and not subject to the whims of Congress. A new bill, the Family Crisis Cash Assistance Act (H.R. 8387/S. 4770), introduced last week in the Senate by Senator Brian Schatz and in the House by Congresswoman Gwen Moore would make sure that every household in need would receive cash to help meet their needs in the case of a sudden economic downturn or natural disaster.
CDF is proud to endorse this legislation, which would create a permanent, automatic, trigger-based cash assistance program for low-income individuals and families with incomes at 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Line (FPL) or below to be administered by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) via grants to the states.
Assistance would kick in at the state level in the event of a declared natural disaster emergency or an abrupt increase in unemployment. Once a state experiences one of the triggers, the grant would cover six months of cash assistance payments. The cash assistance would be set at $2,000 a month for an individual, $3,000 for a family of two, and $500 more per additional member of the family, capped at $4,000 a month and adjusted for inflation moving forward.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown how badly we need these types of robust automatic triggers to ensure that when disaster strikes, vulnerable populations get the cash relief they need to stay afloat. Low-income and BIPOC communities disproportionately suffer during disasters and economic crises because our existing basic needs and recovery programs are woefully inadequate. But we know that direct cash assistance in a crisis can dramatically reduce economic hardship and poverty, boost the economy, and provide much needed security for children and families all across the country. The one-time cash payments approved in the CARES Act last spring dramatically reduced poverty, but its effect was undermined by Congress’s failure to take further action.
CDF urges Congress to pass this crucial legislation and ensure that when the next crisis hits, people will be properly taken care of.