ATLANTA — Federal lawmakers have unveiled a new federal relief package that includes some provisions to help Georgia families weather the pandemic, but it still falls short of delivering true relief that can help the state recover, officials with the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute said in a news release.
Georgians are ready for comprehensive relief: Since the beginning of December, at least 1,000 Georgians made more than 1,150 calls to Sens. (David) Perdue and (Kelly) Loeffler via GBPI highlighting the need for more relief. More than 550 letters also were sent to the senators. These Georgians urged the senators to pass legislation that includes an adequate extension of unemployment benefits, an increase in SNAP benefits, rental and child care assistance, and state and federal aid.
“Georgians from all over the state are urging our Senators to support a comprehensive COVID relief bill that helps families put food on the table, pay rent and begin to recover from this pandemic,” GBPI President and CEO Taifa Smith Butler said. “While this new legislation must pass so that families can get through the holiday season, it does not come close to addressing the havoc COVID-19 has already wreaked, nor the problems that are still to arise. GBPI urges Sens. Perdue and Loeffler to support this legislation as temporary relief, but when Congress returns in January, it will be past time for legislation that truly addresses the complete needs of Georgians.”
The bill includes what the GBPI called “some promising measures,” including:
♦ $25 billion in rental assistance;
♦ $600 stimulus checks per adult and child, including payments for citizens in mixed-status households.
♦ The bill also includes “improvements to unemployment insurance,” such as:
♦ A continuation of the federal unemployment benefits for gig workers, contract workers, etc. that was set to expire;
♦ 11 weeks of additional $300 unemployment insurance benefits;
♦ A six-month 15 percent increase in SNAP assistance for families struggling to afford food;
♦ $10 billion for child care assistance;
♦ $81.9 billion for the ‘‘Education Stabilization Fund.’’ (The majority of this funding, $54.3 billion, will go to K-12 public schools.)
♦ A provision allowing families to use 2019 income to determine their earned income tax credit and child tax credit so that some families can see a higher credit;
♦ An investment in broadband access, which is critical for families facing remote work and school, job searches and more.
However, the organization said, this legislation still falls short. Adequate assistance would require:
♦ More aid to state and local governments to address revenue shortfalls and previous budget cuts, and to help state lawmakers restore funding for programs and services Georgia families need;
♦ An estimated $9.6 billion per month in child care assistance;
♦ The full $600 in extra federal unemployment insurance benefits that was provided over the summer, as well as backpay for the months since those benefits expired. Eleven weeks of additional benefits will likely be insufficient as well;
♦ Economic impact payments that more adequately provide relief. $600 is very little, particularly since most families last received their first stimulus check more than six months ago. The first stimulus check prevented approximately $12.5 million Americans from entering into poverty, but 8 million families have entered into poverty since summer;
♦ An expansion of the earned income tax credit for workers under 25 and those without children;
♦ Additional education funding to address the steep budget cuts Georgia public schools face this fiscal year;
♦ Extend stimulus check to all families who file with an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, rather than a Social Security Number, to help more immigrant families address the COVID crisis.
Meanwhile, Georgians and families across the country are continuing to suffer from the health and economic effects of COVID-19, GBPI said. Although the new legislation would serve as a strong start, a one-time $600 check and a short-term unemployment benefits extension will not provide adequate relief since 59 percent of Georgia families are not sure they can afford enough food this month.
Federal officials predict the United States may not return to normal until fall 2021, so the effects of COVID-19 will still be felt by Georgia families for many months to come.
Aside from the more than 1,000 Georgians who reached out individually to Georgia’s senators, more than 60 Georgia groups, including faith communities, groups representing small businesses, nonprofits that serve families in poverty, policy organizations and more, urged Sens. Perdue and Loeffler to support comprehensive federal relief.