Much More to Do for People with Low Incomes, Despite Senate Passage of Families First Act

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

Washington, D.C., March 18, 2020 – Today, as the federal government stepped up its effort to help families during the COVID-19 public health crisis, the U.S. Senate passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. The bill provides limited emergency paid leave and paid sick days for workers, $1 billion in nutrition assistance, Medicaid funding increases for states, and expanded unemployment insurance. This legislation is a critical first step to providing people and families—particularly those who have low incomes—with necessary financial support to take care of their health, nutrition and caregiving needs.

But Congress must do more. While it is a crucial achievement that Congress has passed the first-ever paid sick days and paid family and medical leave legislation for private sector employees, subsequent legislation should close the holes in the legislation so that millions of workers are not left out of critical leave provisions. All workers need paid sick days and paid family and medical leave that includes full wage replacement to protect their health and economic security and to be able to comply with public health recommendations.

Congress should move quickly on an economic stimulus package that goes further to shore up health, child care, nutrition, and income supports for workers who earn low wages. Many people and families with low incomes and communities of color, who came into this crisis facing the greatest inequities in access to economic opportunity and health care, are already facing job and income loss that will threaten their financial wellbeing. Policymakers must take immediate action to provide support to people with low incomes who are at the greatest risk of losing their ability to pay their bills, put food on their tables, stay healthy and take care of their families. And federal resources are critical to ensure continuity of the child care industry and its workforce during and after the current crisis.

People with low incomes must be targeted in our policy response to this crisis because their needs are urgent and because, if we don’t ensure that everyone has access to health care and economic security, we can’t conquer the virus or rebuild our economy.