Our country is facing a dire public health and economic crisis that many of us have never witnessed before. The country is officially in a recession, and countless families are struggling to cover their expenses, put food on the table, and keep a roof over their head. Food insecurity tripled among households with children in April. Millions of renters have been unable to pay their rent and may face eviction as eviction moratoriums expire nationwide. Worse yet, the health and economic devastation of this pandemic has fallen disproportionately on Black and Latinx families, widening already severe racial inequities and discrimmination.
We are failing our most vulnerable children and families by denying them robust and recurring cash to meet their basic needs during this crisis. The one-time payments of $1,200 per adult and $500 per child provided by Congress in March through the CARES Act helped some families stay afloat temporarily, but more help is urgently needed. Children and families need direct, recurring cash payments of $2,000 through the end of this economic crisis to help put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads.
Millions were left out of the last round one-time cash payments.
While direct cash payments have relieved a significant amount of financial distress for families, it has not been evenly felt by everyone in our nation. Researchers at Columbia University have estimated that only 63 percent of Americans live in households that received a direct cash payment because they were excluded from eligibility, and as many as 35 million people eligible for the payments have not yet received them due mostly to administrative hurdles. Those who were excluded from the payments are people of color, immigrants, and young adults; 10 million teens and young adults aged 17 to 24 were excluded from the cash payments and in families who are more likely to be living in poverty. These cruel race- and age-based exclusions must be undone.
Families with children need help now.
As proposed in the House’ Democrats most recently passed COVID-19 relief package, the HEROES Act, does a lot more for children. The bill provides for a second round of direct cash assistance payments, equal for adults and children, including $1,200 per adult and $1,200 per dependent (with up to three dependents for a maximum of $6,000 per household). It also modifies the CARES Act retroactively to expand eligibility to many communities who were shamefully left out of the initial payments. Those include dependents aged 17 to 24 years olds, who are often full-time students, adult dependents, ITIN filers and individuals in mixed-immigrant status families.
The HEROES Act Economic Impact Payments (EIPs) is a step in the right direction, but a truly adequate cash assistance program must provide:
- $2,000 per month for adults and children with no caps on the number of dependents;
- Paid out monthly until the economic crisis subsides; and
- To everyone in need, especially low-income families, underbanked communities, and those who did not qualify for the first round of payments.
The Senate must act without delay.
Despite this grim reality and the desperate need for immediate action, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the Senate Republicans say they won’t consider any legislation to mitigate the fallout from the pandemic until middle of July and, even then, they’ll be focused on a small package that prioritizes the needs of billionaires and corporations over their suffering constituents. Rosy job data from May seem to have convinced Senate Republicans that urgent action isn’t necessary, but a closer look at this data shows that unemployment continues to hit Black and Laitno workers the hardest, and it fails to take into account the millions of people who have dropped out of the workforce altogether.
If the Senate chooses to leave these communities behind and fails to get cash into the pockets of families struggling to put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads, our children—disproportionately children of color—will go hungry and lose their homes. We know that direct cash assistance kept the poverty rate steady during a moment of massive job losses in April, but without sustained help from Congress millions of people could slip into poverty.
Our children and families cannot afford to wait. Children’s lives have been upended by this pandemic – from their education, to their health, to growing hunger and homelessness. The Senate must take up an additional round of pandemic relief legislation immediately and include robust direct cash assistance to ensure that every family, especially families of color, can make ends meet during this crisis and beyond.