To help America through coronavirus, support workers and families

By U.S. Reps. Rosa DeLauro and Nita M. Lowey Published 9:13 am EDT, Friday, May 8, 2020

American families and communities across the country are being devastated by coronavirus — their health, economic security and overall well-being decimated by this invisible scourge.

Five weeks into the pandemic, more than 26 million Americans have filed jobless claims. For the week ending April 18, Connecticut experienced its highest level of initial unemployment claims ever, with claims more than tripling over the week. In New York, which has experienced the largest number of confirmed coronavirus cases and deaths in the U.S., more than 1.4 million individuals have submitted applications for unemployment benefits since the crisis began. As schools remains closed, countless parents struggle to balance work and child care. The physical health crisis has given rise to a mental health crisis, as well.

In this time of uncertainty and disruption, pain and loss, Americans are counting on the full force of our government to help them through this crisis. Congress must provide significantly more relief to put families and workers first. The future of our country depends on it.

As chairs of the House Appropriations Committee (Lowey) and its Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (DeLauro), we are on the front lines in Congress to fund a strong federal, state and local response to coronavirus.

Since the pandemic hit, Congress has provided robust emergency resources for programs dedicated to the well-being of individuals, families and communities.

Now, Congress must quickly turn to a larger, more transformational relief bill that provides far more support, commensurate with the scale and scope of the crisis, to help Americans struggling to stay afloat.

First, significantly more funding for child care is vital. The $3.6 billion provided by Congress so far is a drop in the bucket of the funding needed for states to expand access to child care, especially for health care workers on the front lines of this crisis, and to provide assistance to child care providers. Child care is essential for working families, especially low-income families, and for children’s health, safety and stability.

We also need to ensure that vulnerable families can meet urgent basic needs during this crisis. As we approach the warmer summer months, there should be more funding for states to help low-income Americans with home energy costs. Funding for grants to diaper banks, assistance with utility bills, and other essential services would help states facing unexpected expenses and plummeting revenues serve far more of their residents in need.

Additionally, Congress should scale up funding for services to homeless Americans and those at risk of losing housing, for family violence prevention services, and for prevention of child abuse and neglect. Funding to expand access to mental health and substance abuse treatment and prevention is also critical. Coronavirus is taking a high psychological toll, as Americans remain isolated and fearful about their futures, and the crisis risks exacerbating these problems as more Americans lose jobs and stability.

State and local governments must also receive substantial funding to provide job training for workers who have lost their jobs due to coronavirus. Grants to community colleges to train job seekers and employers impacted by the changing labor market would lead to security for workers and families and encourage business and economic growth.

Congress must move now to deliver much-needed relief to American workers and families. Protecting the lives and livelihoods of the American people is both a moral obligation and the best way for our nation to weather this storm.

Sarah Locke

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