Missourians need more COVID-19 aid, now

Hundreds of thousands of Missourians, including children, are struggling to get by during our coronavirus public health emergency, according to the recently released U.S. Census Bureau Household Pulse Survey.

While 40.8 percent of Missouri households report losing income since March, families with children under 18 have been especially affected, with 51.4 percent reporting income loss.

COVID-19 has hit Missouri hard, but Black Missourians and other people of color have been hit especially hard. The same Household Pulse Survey data shows that 41 percent of Black households reported sometimes or often not having enough to eat in the last 7 days, versus 11.7 percent of all households.

More than 37 percent of Latinx Missourians reported being uninsured, and 20.9 percent of Black households said they were not caught up on rent payments. At Empower Missouri, we are convinced that decades of structural inequality, including segregated neighborhoods and schools, shaped this reality.

As bad as things are, they would be far worse without the added help for families and the economy that the federal government approved early in the pandemic. But that help is expiring.

It is imperative that the president and Congress immediately take action to provide needed resources.

The U.S. House of Representatives has risen to the occasion, passing a robust package of aid in the HEROES Act way back in May. But the U.S. Senate has not shown a similar appreciation for the urgent nature of our national public health emergency.

The HEALS Act that they passed in July was an embarrassment for its misplaced priorities. Those included pork barrel projects such as $686 million for F-35s, a military plane with a long history of equipment failures and cost-overruns, plus hundreds of millions for additional defense equipment.

A bipartisan group of federal legislators has renewed the call to get coronavirus relief passed in a lame duck session before Congress departs for its holiday break. A new relief package would help the nation as a whole by pumping money into the economy to support local businesses and strengthen the recovery.

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell has stressed the importance of this, saying: “Too little support would lead to a weak recovery, creating unnecessary hardship for households and businesses.”

But most importantly, a strong federal package maximizes our chances of reducing transmission of COVID-19. By helping more people buy food, pay the rent, keep heat, lights, and water connected, and meet other basic needs, we increase housing stability and the ability of bodies to survive coronavirus.

Empower Missouri is calling on Sens. Roy Blunt and Josh Hawley to convey Missouri’s needs to Senate Leader Mitch McConnell and the president and to insist that sufficient federal relief be immediately passed.

Read the full article by Jeanette Mott Oxford, director of policy and organizing at Empower Missouri, at the Missouri Independent.

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