Arizona families counting on passage of COVID relief plan


March 5, 2021

Editor’s note:  Living United for Change in Arizona, partnering with CHN, released a fact sheet about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on their state and how President Biden’s American Rescue Plan would help. The following story aired Friday, March 5 on Arizona News Connection.

Census statistics show Latinos and other people of color have been hit harder by the effects of the pandemic than other Arizonans. (wckiw/Adobe Stock)

By Mark Richardson
PHOENIX, Ariz. – As Arizona families struggle to recover from the pandemic’s economic fallout, advocates for children and families say quick passage of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan has become critical.

According to the Census Bureau, almost half of Arizona adults live in households which lost earnings since the pandemic hit, and losses were higher in families with children.

Tomas Robles, co-chair of Living United for Change in Arizona, or LUCHA, said families need help – before and after the pandemic is over.

“There’s never going to be enough, in terms of total relief that our country has received,” said Robles. “But our families are going to take some of the assistance and really be able to continue pressing and persevering through this really difficult time in a lot of people’s lives.”

The American Rescue Plan would extend unemployment benefits; increase assistance with nutrition, rent and utility bills; and send one-time payments of 14-hundred-dollars to people with qualifying incomes.

Opponents counter that the bill is too costly, and contains provisions not directly related to the virus.

But Deborah Weinstein, executive director of the Coalition on Human Needs, said many of the resources will be used to make people’s lives better.

“The rescue plan will lift millions of children out of poverty,” said Weinstein, “provide the resources to speed vaccinations, increase health coverage, protect education and other services, and ensure that people can meet their basic needs.”

She noted the U.S. hasn’t faced an economic crisis of this scale since the Great Depression – and said to bring the country back, Congress needs to get it right.

“Between the pandemic threats to peoples’ lives and their livelihood, if the federal government does not step up with the right scope of help, millions of us will be pushed out of the middle class and into prolonged hardship,” said Weinstein.

The plan passed the House earlier this week, and is now in the Senate, where all 50 Democrats must approve it in order for it to become law. Officials hope President Biden can sign it by March 14, before several pandemic-related benefit programs are scheduled to expire.