After a two-week break, the Senate returns this week with the expectation that the focus will be on the fifth COVID-19 package. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) rejected the House $3 trillion HEROES Act that passed the House of Representatives on May 15, saying he wanted to wait and see how the economy and the response to the pandemic rolled out in the coming weeks. It is now two months later, and the outcomes have not been positive.
On Thursday, July 16, 2020, the Labor Department reported new unemployment claims of 1.3 million, which is approximately double the claims at the height of the 2008-09 Great Recession. It also represents 17 straight weeks of claims above 1 million. California, which represents the largest part of the U.S. economy, is now shifting to increased shutdowns, including plans not to reopen many school districts. Many of the states that sought to reopen faster or only partially closed down, including Texas, Arizona, and Florida, seem to be hitting a crisis point in positive tests, hospital admissions, intensive care unit capacities, and COVID-19 deaths. Nationally the deaths are once again approaching 1000 per day after dipping to lows in the 300s.
Rumors are circulating in Washington that the McConnell plan, likely to be released by Tuesday or Wednesday will be at the $1 trillion level. That total, however massive, will likely not leave much room for specific child welfare spending. The next package will likely have to have some continuation of the unemployment extension. The supplemental benefit of $600 a week is unpopular with many Republicans, but cutting people off in the middle of this national crisis would shock the system and families. There is also concern over certain industries that are getting slammed, such as small non-chain restaurants and other similar small businesses. Other items of need run from child welfare to nutrition, child care, housing and many other urgent needs. In addition, there are non-profit and small agencies that form the backbone of many human services in the U.S., including child care, child welfare, food kitchens, homeless shelters, long term care, and aging services agencies. They could be up against it if states have to implement massive budget cuts.Many, such as the child care industry, have already faced closures.
In the next package, possible McConnell elements could include some form of extension of unemployment, additional small business loans, relief for state budgets, a possible new round for tax rebates, aid to assist schools in reopening, and Senator McConnell’s top priority of liability protections for businesses. Many of these will be controversial or could be too small, but those are the outlines of what is likely to be the first bid by McConnell this week.
CWLA has a number of tools for you to use this week to amplify the message for emergency relief for child welfare and other related assistance: