Tell Congress: Invest in affordable housing and protect renters.
The Biden administration has released a new renter protection blueprint — a bold initiative that protects renters, promotes rental affordability, uses an evidence-based strategy to quickly connect people to homes, and helps them access voluntary services such as substance use treatment, peer support, and employment services.
We applaud this move by the Biden administration and also realize that without federal legislation there are serious limits to what the White House can do.
During the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, we saw how rental protections provided a necessary lifeline to families who had just lost income or members of their household due to the virus. People are still getting sick with COVID, inflation is at record highs, and the financial support and expanded tax credits millions received during the pandemic have expired.
We’re dealing with a national shortage of 7 million affordable homes for low-income renters. This severe shortage of homes is a structural feature of America’s housing system that builds upon almost a century of discriminatory housing policies and practices that exist to this day. The affordable housing crisis impacts every city, state, and community and without Congress’ intervention, the lasting effects on our educational, health care, and economic systems will be catastrophic.
The two years in edition. Two years and one week ago, the World Health Organization declared a pandemic. Today, in the U.S., there is cause for optimism. We see that daily infections, hospitalizations, and deaths all have fallen precipitously – to levels we have not seen since last summer. There are hints of a return to normalcy in our everyday lives.
Still: three red flags appear on the horizon.
First, the omicron variant is surging in parts of Asia and throughout Europe, where infections on a per capita basis are almost ten times the rate in the U.S. Across the European continent, 95 cases per 100,000 people are being reported. In the U.S. and Canada, that figure is 10 cases per 100,000 people. Experts say a resurgence in cases in the U.S. could be imminent – or it could happen in the summer or fall. The early detection system of wastewater surveillance is raising flags, with more than one-third of sites seeing increases.
Second, despite all we have learned, all we have experienced, the U.S. is woefully unprepared for the next pandemic – or a worsening of the current one. The Biden Administration has – often and aggressively – warned Congress that the federal government is running out of money for vaccines, testing, and treatment. The White House Tuesday warned in a letter to Congress that the country risks being “blindsided” by future coronavirus variants.
Congress failed to include additional COVID-19 relief in its latest appropriations bill; prospects for passage of a stand-alone measure appear uncertain. “We need to have this money,” Jeffrey D. Zients, President Biden’s outgoing coronavirus response coordinator, toldthe New York Times this week. “This is not nice to have; this is need to have.”
The third red flag? Even as the country struggles to emerge from the pandemic’s long shadow, Americans are suffering from crippling costs. Gas and heating prices are soaring. Rents are skyrocketing. Groceries seem more expensive than ever. Inflation threatens a year of strong recovery, record-breaking economic growth.
But Congress dawdles.
What we need is for Congress to act quickly to pass economic legislation that helps families and workers manage high costs now and advances an economy where everyone can share in the nation’s prosperity.
It shouldn’t be too much to ask.
On Thursday, March 17, 30,550 average daily COVID-19 cases and 1,224 deaths were reported in the U.S. That’s a 41 percent decrease in new cases and a 28 percent decrease in deaths. Hospitalizations dropped by 43 percent.Tweet this.
The amount of money the Biden Administration has sought from Congress to purchase treatments, secure boosters, and ensure there is sufficient testing in case of new variants. That’s a tiny fraction of the nearly $6 trillion allocated so far for pandemic relief. The $22.5 billion was whittled down to $15.6 billion during negotiations, but later was stripped out of the omnibus spending package altogether. Tweet this.
The White House saidit will have to cut back shipments of monoclonal antibody treatments to states by 30 percent next week because Congress has been unable to agree on new COVID-19 funding. Tweet this.
In February, when inflation was 7.9% higher than the previous year, the increase in prices was costing the average household $296 a month – up from $276 in January. If Congress reinstates the expanded Child Tax Credit, families with a child younger than six would resume receiving $300 per month, helping them to manage higher costs. (If they had a second child age 6-17, they would get another $250 per month.) Tweet this.
The American Rescue Plan’s expansion of the Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit will significantly reduce poverty in Puerto Rico. The two credits combined could provide more than $2 billion to Puerto Rican families in 2022 as they file their 2021 taxes. The ARP permanently fixed a longstanding flaw that limited the CTC to families with three or more children in Puerto Rico. Now families with one or two children can claim the credit – a reform that makes 89 percent, or nearly 304,000 families with children, newly eligible. Tweet this.
Puerto Rico has among the highest poverty rates in the U.S. — 44 percent for its general population and 57 percent for families with children. The island has been particularly hard hit by a combination of factors – pandemic, a slew of natural disasters, and bankruptcy reorganization. That’s why the CTC and EITC reforms were particularly welcome.
Between February 2020 and February 2022, the U.S. economy losta net 2.1 million jobs. 1.4 million of those jobs were lost by women – 68.5 percent. Although 678,000 jobs were addedin February and 481,000 in January of this year, we still have not made up all the jobs lost early in the pandemic.
In the Boston region, 60 percent of students at some high-poverty schools have been identified as at-risk for reading problems – twice as high as before the pandemic. Nationwide, experts warn that about a third of children in the youngest grades are missing reading benchmarks, much higher than before the pandemic.
As many as 16 million Americans, including millions of children, could lose Medicaid coverage when the nation’s public health emergency ends. That declaration could come as early as mid-summer. The Biden Administration is working with states to minimize the harm, but health advocates are worried.
Young children in the U.S. were hospitalized at much higher rates this winter as omicron became the dominant variant – five times the rate documented during the delta wave. However, few deaths were reported. Children under 5 remain ineligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.