Ladelle McWhorter: COVID relief offers hope, but more action needed
After eight months of repeatedly failed negotiations, Congress has approved a bipartisan relief package that will protect millions of Americans from some of the worst economic consequences of the pandemic. They extended deadlines for unemployment benefits, the renter’s eviction moratorium, and student loan forbearance, and added funding for other key programs that people need to make it through COVID.
The COVID-19 relief bill passed by the House and Senate offers a glimmer of hope to Americans who are still unemployed, have lost their health care coverage, are struggling to pay rent, or put enough food on the table. The long overdue relief package is a start on the more comprehensive relief and stimulus package Americans really need as early as possible in 2021 to get back on the road to economic recovery and finally get the pandemic under control.
Across the state, Virginia Organizing’s chapters started fighting for COVID relief before the passage of the CARES Act last spring. Our members are poultry workers on the Eastern Shore, renters in Fredericksburg worried about evictions, and parents, teachers, and students in school districts across Virginia. This package will make a difference in their lives, but we must do more.
While this modest package was an achievement given the contentious negotiations, and we thank Senator Mark Warner for his work to bring it about, it excludes some key provisions that are central to getting the nation back on track. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to include funding for strapped cities and states that will be needed next year to stop layoffs and fund essential services, including education, transportation, and public safety services like fire departments and emergency medical response.
Virginia is facing a $145 million state budget shortfall next year that will devastate jobs and services without additional federal relief dollars. With skyrocketing infections and over 317,000 COVID casualties, Congress must provide increased funding for Medicaid to states in order to shore up ailing hospitals, ensure that health services are not cut, and increase access to health care for millions who have lost employer-sponsored coverage or can’t afford other coverage.
When the newly elected Congress and President-Elect Biden return to Washington in January, they must immediately get to work on comprehensive relief that addresses the full scope of today’s crisis and puts the economy back on track for everyone.
Ladelle McWhorter is the chair of Virginia Organizing.