Vikki Tully of Alkol, West Virginia has worked as a Head Start teacher for 26 years. She earns $12.70 an hour. Tully is one of nearly 52 million workers – or almost one-third of the work force – who earn less than $15 an hour, according to a new report released this week by the anti-poverty advocacy group Oxfam America.
Among the most enduring images of pandemic year 2020 were mile-long car lines as families suddenly beset by unemployment inched their way toward relief in the form of food banks. Such disturbing imagery is unlikely to return soon – the economy is rebounding after a record-breaking 2021, and the number of families seeking assistance is down precipitously from March and April 2020. But more families are reporting a lack of food, and visits to food banks are once again on the increase, in large part due to the rising cost of groceries, gas, and rent – three spending areas that disproportionately hit families with low incomes in times of inflation.
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.
If you’ve been slammed lately by higher prices on everything from groceries to rental cars and gas prices, you’re probably wondering what on earth is behind these skyrocketing costs. Corporations are quick to blame this new reality on the pandemic, but another major culprit is hiding in plain sight: their own profiteering.
Friday, March 11 marks a convergence of one deadline and two anniversaries – all deeply entwined. By midnight Friday, in order to keep the federal government running, Congress had to pass either a short-term continuing resolution or a full-year appropriations bill. Friday is also the one-year anniversary of passage of the American Rescue Plan (ARP), a roadmap for how to respond to future crises – whether they are pandemic-related or economic-related, or, as in this case, both. Friday also marks exactly two years since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 to be a pandemic.
Groups in Missouri are urging Congress to pass a full-year, fully funded appropriations bill, instead of a parade of stopgap continuing resolutions to fund support programs for low-income and working people across the state. Jill Gaikowski, executive director of the Happy Bottoms diaper bank in Kansas City, said many low-income families struggle to pay for diapers. She hopes to see funding included in the next omnibus spending bill.
During this past Black History Month, we reflected upon the notable Black men, women, and organizations who have paved the way for the future of Black leaders but may not have received the same exposure or recognition. We reflected upon individuals whose skills, talents, purpose, and/or studies pushed them above and beyond barriers due to their race. These Black leaders were the stepping stones that allowed generations to follow the opportunity to fill these spaces, giving them hope to know that it not only was possible but still is.
Mainers are urging Congress to pass a fully funded, full-year appropriations bill, instead of the stopgap continued resolutions for the various federal programs supporting low-income and working people across the state. Between 2010 and 2021, many programs serving low-income people nationwide lost ground with inflation taken into account, according to the Coalition on Human Needs.
Short-term budget extensions are often used by Congress to keep the federal government funded, and with another budget deadline looming, community action agencies in North Dakota say it’s time to adopt a different approach, so people who are struggling are not left behind. The latest continuing resolution to keep federal money flowing expires March 11, and social-service groups argued the temporary approach often results in flat aid levels.
The how-our-economy-survived-the-pandemic edition. As we prepare to mark two full years of COVID-19, it is perhaps instrumental to look at how far we have come and why things did not turn out much worse – the tremendous cost and loss of life notwithstanding. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has released an important analysis demonstrating how much worse the damage to our economy and to people in need would have been had the federal government not aggressively responded when the pandemic surfaced.
Out of nearly 200 federal programs tracked by the Coalition on Human Needs between fiscal years 2010 and 2021, nearly two-thirds have not kept pace with inflation. Without an updated omnibus spending bill, said Joree Novotny, director of external affairs for the Ohio Association of Foodbanks, there isn’t enough assistance to meet the need. For example, she explained, monthly WIC benefits for fresh produce for children would decrease from $24 to $9.
We heard a true celebration of freedom in President Biden’s State of the Union speech. The President demonstrated resolve in support of the Ukrainian struggle for freedom – in action, not just words. He also demonstrated what is required in a free and just society: that people can live free from want and fear, choosing their own path and joining in the direction of their government.