Yesterday, Senate Republicans unveiled a series of proposals that – taken together – fail to meet the needs of millions of Californians who are still reeling from the economic effects of COVID-19. Despite unprecedented unemployment and hardship, the GOP has opted to introduce a plan with:
- No increase in SNAP/CalFresh benefits to help people buy food for themselves and their families;
- A massive cut in unemployment benefits for laid-off workers even though job losses remain higher than at the height of the Great Recession;
- No extensions of WIC waivers to enable families to continue to enroll remotely and to access their benefits while minimizing exposure risk for themselves, their families, and clinic staff;
- No extension of Pandemic EBT to help families buy food when schools are implementing distance or hybrid models of learning and no expansion of the program to younger children who have been impacted by child care closures and public health orders to reduce class sizes;
- No economic relief for immigrant households. Similar to the CARES Act, the plan includes additional stimulus payments that continue to shut out many U.S. citizens and lawfully present children because at least one of their parents do not have a social security number.
- No increase in federal funds for Medicaid and insignificant flexible federal aid to meet California’s $54.3 billion dollar deficit and to help prevent layoffs of public workers and cuts to child care, schools, and critical public services that Californians rely on.
As it stands, the plan will not meet the needs of an unprecedented number of Californians who are struggling to access enough food. Record layoffs have dramatically decreased the resources many Californians have available to feed themselves and their families. A US Census Bureau survey shows that in late June, compared to pre-COVID measures of food sufficiency, there was a nearly 30% increase among California adults living in households with children where “sometimes” or “often” there was not enough food to eat in the past seven days. The hardship is widespread, but particularly prevalent among Black, Latino, and immigrant households. The American people are looking for solutions, but they won’t find them in the Senate’s proposal as it currently stands.
The series of proposals are an opening bid. As negotiations continue, we urge California’s lawmakers to lift up responsible and real solutions to the hardship our California friends and neighbors are facing. Protecting the health and wellbeing of Californians in the wake of COVID-19 must be a priority. The next recovery package must include: a 15% boost to SNAP benefits, an extension of Pandemic EBT, an extension of WIC waivers, and more signficiant and inclusive fiscal relief for states and low and moderate-income households.