After many days of negotiations going late into the night, just before midnight on Wednesday the Senate passed a $2 trillion stimulus package designed to help stabilize the U.S. economy and provide some relief for households reeling from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. All eyes are now on the House of Representatives where a voice vote is expected before the weekend.
This package represents another important step forward in helping to meet the needs of children and families, hospitals inundated with coronavirus patients and strapped for resources, and states as they incur huge new costs in response to the coronavirus outbreak.
We were pleased to see the inclusion of the following provisions which will begin to help mitigate the effects of this public health crisis for millions of children and families across the country:
- One time cash payments of $1,200 per adult and $500 per child for low- and middle-income earners (Unfortunately, these payments largely exclude immigrant families, as payments are only made available to tax filers and dependents with a Social Security Number).
- $4 billion in grants for homelessness assistance to support shelters and services, as well as more than $3 billion in assistance for low-income renters in danger of falling behind on their rent and potentially facing eviction. The bill also includes additional funding for public housing and temporarily prohibits foreclosures and evictions in properties backed by the federal government.
- $15.5 billion in additional funding to meet the expected growth in those needing to access SNAP benefits during this crisis, as well $450 million for The Emergency Food Assistance Program to assist food banks across the country.
- $3.5 billion in additional funding for the Child Care and Development Block Grant to provide child care assistance to health care sector employees, emergency responders, sanitation workers, and other workers deemed essential during the response to the coronavirus and to provide continued payments and assistance to child care providers in cases of decreased enrollment or closures.
- $30.75 billion for grants to provide emergency support to local school systems and higher education institutions to continue to provide educational services to their students and support the on-going functionality of school districts and institutions.
- $45 million for the Stephanie Tubbs Jones Child Welfare Services (Title IV-B, Subpart 1) to provide flexibility to states and tribes to develop and expand child and family services programs to prevent child maltreatment
- $25 million for the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act to provide temporary shelter, counseling and aftercare services for youth experiencing homelessness.
- $45 million for Family Violence Prevention and Services formula grants to provide domestic violence services and prevention, and $2 million for the National Domestic Violence Hotline to provide information and assistance to victims of family violence.
- $250 billion in temporary enhancements of unemployment insurance including a $600/week increase in the support for unemployed workers and the expanded coverage to part-time, self-employed, and gig economy workers. The bill also temporarily extends the length of benefits and waives waiting weeks.
- Preserves the critical Medicaid “maintenance of effort” provision that was included in the bipartisan Families First Act to ensure hundreds of thousands of people do not lose their Medicaid coverage during this public health crisis.
While this bill represents a very important step forward, it does not meet all of the needs of children and families, particularly the most vulnerable, and falls far short of including all of the priorities for relief CDF outlined in our letter to Congress last week. It also fails to ensure all families, regardless of their immigration status, can access critical health and economic support at this time. Congress has signaled their intent to continue working on additional relief packages and simply put, they must. CDF will continue to fight for the inclusion of a robust suite of policies designed to help the children and families who need it most, including: significant investments in services to help children and families in or at risk of child welfare involvement, older youth in care and those aging out, and children in kinship families; a nationwide increase in the SNAP allotment and benefits; an increase in Medicaid funding for states, mandatory 12-month continuous eligibility and an expansion for healthcare coverage for those that are uninsured; a significantly larger investment in child care; an emergency rent assistance fund; increased funding to the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG) to help states tailor the services they need for their communities; and relief and access to services for all families — regardless of immigration status.