Legislation Will Provide COVID-19 Relief for Vulnerable and Marginalized Communities
WASHINGTON — The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) commends the U.S. House of Representatives, under the leadership of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, for passing the fourth urgently-needed COVID-19 relief package, the “Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act” (HEROES Act). The Senate must, like the House, take aggressive action to respond to the devastating impacts of the COVID-19 crisis. Aid must be prioritized for vulnerable populations, including communities of color, who are hardest hit by the pandemic.
“Social workers, as essential workers on the front lines of responding to the pandemic, know well the health, financial and other impacts of this crisis on individuals, families and communities. Over 30 million people have already filed for unemployment. Over 30% of people paid only part or none of their rent or mortgage this month. Forty percent of mothers and children under age 12 could not afford enough food last month. The HEROES Act is a critical step forward in reversing these trends,” said Angelo McClain, Chief Executive Officer of NASW.
The $3 trillion HEROES Act will provide $1 trillion for state and local governments and another round of $1200 direct payments to individuals ($2400 for married couples), with an extra $1200 per dependent up to a maximum of three. It also includes a number of measures to promote food, job and housing security. Among other things, it increases the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefit level, extends unemployment assistance through January 2021, and allocates more than $120 billion for emergency rental assistance and homeless prevention and services. Health care access measures in the bill include broader access to COVID-19 testing for people in jails and prisons and to immigrants, and funding for Medicaid which will allow states to seek increased financial support for mental health services to impacted individuals and families.
The package also provides $3.6 billion to ensure that the 2020 elections are free, fair and accessible, and requires the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) to require workplaces to put into place safety measures to protect workers from the coronavirus.
Finally, the bill includes federal and private student loan debt relief.
NASW issued a Social Justice Brief, The Implications of COVID-19 for the Nation’s Vulnerable and Marginalized Populations. The HEROES Act addresses many of the needs outlined in this brief. The Senate must act swiftly, despite likely stiff opposition, to ensure it is enacted.