The following is a statement from Jason Bailey, the executive director of the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy, on the COVID relief bill passed by the U.S. House.
Today’s passage of a comprehensive relief bill in the U.S. House of Representatives is a landmark step forward in defeating COVID and fighting economic hardship through the remainder of this crisis. This legislation is the kind of action we need now as the economy remains weak and the virus is not yet behind us. We call on the Senate to pass this bill quickly, before vital pandemic unemployment benefits for over 100,000 Kentuckians expire on March 14.
A recovery is still far off, and the greatest risk now is that Congress will do too little, rather than too much. The pandemic has caused widespread financial pain for Kentuckians of all races from all parts of the state. The state still has 114,000 fewer jobs than it did before the pandemic hit, and especially hard-hit have been low-wage workers and workers of color. Nearly 1 in 5 Kentucky parents tell the Census their children aren’t getting enough to eat because the household can’t afford it, and 16% of Kentuckians are behind on rent.
In addition to critical monies for virus distribution and testing, the House-passed bill provides many crucial economic relief measures including:
- an extension of emergency measures such as increased SNAP food benefits, the federal eviction moratorium, and pandemic unemployment assistance;
- rental assistance to keep people in their homes;
- financial assistance to help meet urgent household expenses such as utility bills and car payments through $1,400 stimulus payments and expanded child and family credits;
- improved access to affordable health coverage;
- much-needed fiscal aid to state and local governments and to schools;
- a long-overdue increase in the minimum wage to $15 an hour.
The House Bill does the job of building a bridge to the other side of this crisis and preventing more hardship in the months to come. The Senate must protect its vital provisions — including the $15 minimum wage — and agree to make it law.