House Coronavirus Bill Is Important First Step, But Low-Income People Need More Support

The following statement can be attributed to Olivia Golden, executive director of the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP)

Washington, D.C., March 14, 2020—Today the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. The legislation is a critical first step to addressing the pressing health, nutrition, and caregiving needs of people with low incomes—who may be most severely affected by the current public health crisis caused by the COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) outbreak.

The bill includes 10 days of emergency paid sick days and 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave for many people who face caregiving needs related to the COVID-19 outbreak. These supports are tremendously important for millions of workers in low-wage jobs who risk losing income or their job if they have to stay home and care for themselves or a sick family member—a choice that could threaten their own health and that of their larger community. In addition, the bill’s increased funding for Medicaid, investments and flexibility in SNAP and other nutrition programs, and increased funding for Unemployment Insurance will address the urgent need to get health services and food to individuals and families. The bill also provides some fiscal relief to states.

CLASP applauds this action and urges the Senate to pass this legislation and the president to sign it into law immediately. But Congress cannot stop there. This public health crisis is quickly becoming an economic crisis as well.

Congress must take additional action to further shore up health, nutrition, and income supports, and to ensure ongoing paid sick time and paid family and medical leave for individuals and families. Those other actions should include providing additional financial support to employers and employees in low-wage industries, including child care providers, that are at risk of not remaining economically stable.

As communities take steps to stop the spread of this virus, workers in low-wage jobs are at great risk of losing income, employment, and housing. Now is the time to act to bolster the economy and ensure that individuals with low incomes—disproportionately people of color—are prioritized for stimulus investments.