In dense cities, people line up for blocks outside food banks, and in sprawling areas, cars line up for miles. It is not an exercise. It is a health and economic crisis made worse by the lack of leadership.
It won’t get any easier for families to put food on the table or pay their next rent. Policy makers must act. People struggle because they are either out of work, involuntarily part-time, or because they are trying to catch up financially after being laid off for a period of time. We live in a wealthy democracy which, even in times of economic prosperity, does not guarantee the basics such as access to affordable housing, health care, food and jobs that pay a living wage.
Defenders have sounded the alarm bells for months, but Republicans have continually balked at a series of additional robust stimulus measures and, by the 11th hour, can only agree to a minimal compromise that will not be fully up to date. height of this moment. Direct payments are not part of the $ 908 billion compromise, although they include $ 300 in weekly UI benefits, an extended moratorium on evictions, assistance to state and local governments, and increased SNAP benefits. . Democrats are calling for a final measure to include direct aid. A report published Tuesday afternoon by the Washington Post says the White House is open to direct payments, but that has not resulted in a formal proposal. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell remains steadfast in his commitment to a leaner bill so far which includes legal protections for employers who do not take the necessary precautions to ensure the safety of their workers. In real time, we are witnesses of powerful forces devoted To to keep a system that benefits the rich and powerful.
Low-income families have been the hardest hit by the economic crisis. Black and brown communities have been doubly affected, financially and in terms of health. Women who earn less than $ 30,000 a year are the most likely to be unemployed. It is estimated that 40 million people are at risk of deportation within a month. Now is not the time for lawmakers to skimp. Direct payments would provide the necessary support to individuals and families.
The $ 2.2 trillion CARES law passed in March provided for up to $ 1,200 for people earning $ 99,000 a year or less and an additional $ 500 for dependents. The poorest 20 percent of households received an average payment of $ 1,500. Middle-income families received an average of $ 1,780. These payments and the increase in unemployment insurance benefits have kept families afloat.
My colleagues analyzed the average payments that households at all income levels would receive based on recent proposals. The HEROES law, passed by House Democrats in May, is the most generous. It fixes flaws in the CARES law, such as not including immigrants who pay their taxes with an Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN) instead of a Social Security number. The poorest 20 percent of households would receive an average payment of $ 1,850, the next 20 percent would receive $ 2,070, and middle-income families would receive an average of $ 2,250.
The HEALS law, presented to the Senate in July, also provided for direct payments. It would offer the poorest 20% an average payment of $ 1,550. The next 20 percent of households would receive an average of $ 1,690, and middle-income families would receive an average of $ 1,860.
To put these numbers into perspective, the income of the bottom 20% is $ 21,300 per year or less: a cash payment of $ 1,550 to $ 1,850 would provide immediate economic relief. For low-income families in the next income quintile, income ranges between $ 21,300 and $ 39,800, and for average annual income, between $ 39,800 and $ 65,000. Direct payments would also give these families a significant boost.
But for now, direct payments are not in the bipartisan $ 908 billion proposal or in Senator McConnell’s rudimentary plan. President-elect Joe Biden called the potential bipartisan compromise a “down payment.” Any reduced plan should be considered as such. Economists agree that lawmakers need to be big and bold.
“… it is much more dangerous, for our economy and for our health, to do too little than to do too much” Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel Prize-winning economist, wrote in a dissertation for the Roosevelt Institute.
Here’s what we know about the CARES Act: Columbia University researchers found direct cash payments to households, $ 600 a week in federal UI benefits, and other measures prevented an increase of 4% of poverty in the first months of the pandemic.
But as government aid dried up, poverty increased. A November report found that an additional 7 million people fell below the poverty line after June. Just yesterday, a report by Heather Long in the Washington Post revealed that millions of families are heading for vacations behind on their rent and utilities. We face a tsunami of despair if Congress does not act. A bold stimulus that includes out-of-pocket payments, helps the unemployed, paves the way for job creation, tackles food insecurity, secures affordable housing and avoids an eviction crisis, can dampen the tide.