Charleston Gazette-Mail – President Trump’s recent executive actions are far too meager, ineffective and legally dubious to address the crisis that families in West Virginia and across the nation are facing. Link to op-ed here.
Only Congress can enact a federal relief response plan that is robust enough to address the immediate and ongoing needs of our people. Our U.S. Senators and the Trump Administration must go back to the negotiating table now and pass a package that reflects the magnitude of the economic crisis caused by COVID-19.
In executive actions issued on Saturday, Aug. 8, the President announced plans to address the eviction crisis, expired unemployment insurance benefits, student loan relief and a payroll tax cut. In each instance, these unilateral actions are dramatically insufficient to respond effectively to the health and economic crisis caused by the pandemic. For example, the executive order on housing does not contain an eviction moratorium or rental assistance for folks struggling to pay each month. It only directs agencies to “consider” an eviction ban.
Beyond doing much too little to help the three in ten renters in West Virginia facing housing insecurity, framing this action as providing substantive relief adds needless confusion to the situation, giving folks a false sense of security when in reality they may still be on the brink of losing their homes.
The president’s action to address the expiration of unemployment benefits falls far short of a solution for the tens of thousands of West Virginians who are currently out of work, while simultaneously presenting major implementation challenges for state governments. The bipartisan National Governors Association has already expressed concerns about the “significant administrative burdens and costs” that the plan shifts onto states. Moreover, the president’s plan cuts the federal unemployment benefit in half, from $600 a week to $300, and only provides enough funding for about six weeks of benefits. This underscores the fact that a Congressional solution is the only way to assure adequate benefits for jobless workers in the coming months, as unemployment rates remain above 10 percent.
There’s also a lot the president’s orders completely fail to address. There is no funding for COVID-19 testing and contact tracing; no funding for schools and child care centers to safely reopen; no additional SNAP (food stamp) funding for families who need help putting food on the table; and no aid to state and local governments to protect jobs, public services and health care.
The past several months have been challenging, but federal support from Congress via the unemployment provisions and stimulus in the CARES Act has contributed to better-than-expected state revenues and personal incomes for families. Now those provisions have come to an end, with the economic crisis we are facing no better. Hunger is spiking, community spread of the virus is on the rise, tens of thousands of West Virginia workers are without jobs and families are facing increased housing insecurity.
Each day that goes by without Congressional action, the conditions facing families and our state only get worse. The president’s actions leave far too many behind. West Virginia’s U.S. Senators must call on their colleagues in Congress and the White House to resume talks immediately to pass a robust relief package that supports the people who have been hit hardest by the pandemic.
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