COVID-19 Watch: Tracking Hardship February 26, 2021
February 26, 2021
The 500,000/50 million edition. This week, the U.S. eclipsed the 500,000 mark for COVID-19 deaths. More Americans have died from COVID-19 than in combat during all of America’s wars against foreign enemies. On a brighter note, we are about to surpass 50 million vaccinations administered – it may have happened by the time you read this as delivery of vaccines ramps up considerably.
Shots don’t hurt, much, but the pain to our economy is acute. According to The Century Foundation, some 19 million Americans – nearly 1 in every 8 workers – are currently collecting unemployment benefits, and that doesn’t even include many more who are out of the labor force and/or not collecting benefits for a variety of reasons. “The economic recovery remains uneven and far from complete, and the path ahead is highly uncertain. There is a long way to go,” says Fed Chair Jerome Powell.
Tens of millions of people, especially in households with children, are struggling to put food on the table, make rent, or meet basic expenses. In recent weeks, U.S. Census data have shown that children in Black or Latinx households are nearly three times as likely as children in white households to live in a household where children did not get enough to eat because the household could not afford it.
Adults who are parents or otherwise live with children are likelier to report hardship than adults without children, according to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities. They are more than one-third more likely to report their household did not have enough to eat, and one-third more likely to report difficulties in paying for usual expenses. Renters with children are twice as likely as renters without children to report their household is not caught up on rent.
Desperate times require bold action, but there are roadblocks that must be overcome. On Thursday, we learned that a federal court had ruled against the current moratorium on evictions, and that Senate budget rules will apparently disallow raising the minimum wage to $15/hr as part of the COVID relief bill. The emergency rental assistance in the bill will be needed more urgently than ever, but there is hope the eviction ruling will be overturned. And the fight for $15 will continue, in or out of the COVID relief bill.
Congress is moving toward passage of President Biden’s urgently needed $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan (H.R. 1319), with a vote expected in the House today (February 26). Senate votes will be more difficult. Final enactment must occur before unemployment benefits expire on March 14.That plan would expand and extend unemployment benefits, increase the Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit, expand nutrition assistance and health coverage, increase housing assistance, provide fiscal aid for states, territories, tribes, and localities, provide funding for K-12 schools, support paid leave, and offer emergency funds to families facing hardship. Please tell your House member and Senators to cut child poverty in half by expanding the Child Tax Credit here.