- Support for State & Local Governments to Pay our Heroes: State and local governments are being crushed under the health and financial burden of COVID-19, while coping with plummeting revenues and rapidly rising Medicaid costs. Brookings estimates for every one-point increase in the unemployment rate, states lose $41 billion in revenues nationwide. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that states alone will face budget shortfalls of $555 billion over fiscal years 2020-2022, not including the direct cost of responding to the virus. Because most states are required to balance budgets, they are being forced to make deep cuts to services. Since February, more than 1.5 million state and local government jobs have been lost. Together, the combined state and local government shortfalls are over $900 billion, which is what Democrats are calling for. The state and local shortfall projections are based on economic projections by the CBO and Federal Reserve, which assume gradual containment of the coronavirus and slowly declining unemployment.
- Testing, Tracing and Isolation to Crush the Virus: Experts convened by the Rockefeller Foundation achieved strong consensus that our country needs 30 million tests a week (point of care antigen tests and diagnostic tests). At an estimated price of $20-100 each, this will require $55 billion for the federal government’s share. The adequacy of testing with these funds will depend on prices coming down significantly from current levels and on the manufacture and deployment of large numbers of rapid turnaround, point-of-care tests and addressing the shortage of testing supplies. In addition, a bipartisan group of experts, led by United States of Care, agree we need 180,000 contact tracers to contain outbreaks, at a cost of $12 billion annually. They also recommended $5 billion in spending for isolation and quarantine supports for vulnerable people and those who risk exposing others in multigenerational households. Experts groups state that another $3 billion is needed for information technology, communications, and reporting to track the pandemic. Democrats are calling for a $75 billion package for testing, tracing and isolation. These three elements together are what science tells us will get our children back in schools, keep our vulnerable populations safe, and let us get our economy back on track.
- Safe Learning for Children: The School Superintendents Association has called for $200 billion in emergency funding and at least $4 billion in emergency funding for technology for remote learning. Similarly, the Council of Chief State School Officers estimate that up to approximately $250 billion is needed, specifically: $30.2 billion for operating effective remote and in-person infrastructure during COVID-19 with investments focused on technology infrastructure and health and safety protocols; up to $173.5 billion to address students’ academic learning loss; and $37.4 billion to address the anticipated decline in state and local funding for education stemming from reductions in income, sales and other tax revenues. Democrats are requesting $300 billion for education and safely reopening our schools. This funding would stabilize the public education system and help state educational agencies and school districts maintain current services, including preventing layoffs, larger class sizes and cuts to academic programs and mental health services. More funding would be needed to prevent future cuts to education or provide more extensive fixes, including to physical school infrastructure such as HVAC repair and upgrades to ventilation systems.
- Addressing Food Insecurity for Hungry Children: USDA data shows that SNAP enrollment jumped from 36 million to 43 million between May and June, an unprecedented increase that surpasses participation rates from the Great Recession. At the same time, food costs continue to increase, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Further, research from The Brookings Institution shows that the successful Pandemic EBT program (benefits for families and children who access free or reduced-price school meals) prevented at least 2.7 million children from going hungry and reduced child hunger by 30 percent, but needs to be bolstered, as 9 to 17 million children live in households that do not have enough to eat. Pandemic EBT is estimated to run dry in 32 states by Labor Day, potentially leaving millions of children food insecure. Democrats are asking for an across-the-board 15 percent increase to SNAP’s maximum benefit, an increase in the minimum SNAP benefit to $30, funding for states to meet the increased SNAP caseloads, and expand Pandemic EBT for low-income school children. Increasing SNAP benefits would reduce food insecurity for millions, while expanding the economy. According to USDA, every $1 of SNAP funding results in approximately $1.75 of economic activity and directly injects money into local economies and supports grocery stores, farmers and our communities.
- Rental Assistance for Working Families: Researchers, including at Princeton University’s Eviction Lab and the National Low Income Housing Coalition, estimate that at least 12.6 million renter households may be at risk of eviction by the end of 2020. Multiplying that number by the average monthly cost of HUD rental assistance ($792), approximately $90 billion is needed for emergency rental and utility assistance (including the amount needed to cover rental arrearages that have accrued during the pandemic) until the end of the 2020. Democrats continue to insist on the $100 billion for rental assistance allocated in The Heroes Act. Funds would be distributed by formula to HUD’s existing network of state, territory, city, and county Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG) recipients. In addition to providing funds to current ESG grantees, the bill sets aside a special allocation for tribes and tribal housing authorities and Native Hawai’ians to address emergency rental and utility payment assistance needs in these communities. To expedite assistance for renters, HUD would be required to allocate funds within 7 days.
- Child Care for Families: Research from the Center for Law and Social Policy and others find that the child care sector needs at least $9.6 billion per month to survive and a minimum of $50 billion in emergency, short-term federal funding. This level of funding is estimated to be needed to cover the increased costs of providing care for the 6 million children of essential workers, ensure 1.15 million child care providers and staff can continue to get paid, sustain the 335,000 child care programs for 9.8 million children and provide tuition relief for the 5.8 million children in families who are no longer in care due to program closures. Democrats are requesting at least $50 billion in funding to stabilize the child care sector and help families afford child care as parents return to work. Our proposal provides grant funding to child care providers to cover expenses during periods of low enrollment and revenue and creates a child care stabilization fund within the existing Child Care Development Block Grant infrastructure to distribute funding to states to award funding directly to providers for costs including: personnel costs, sanitization, cleaning, PPE, workforce training on health and safety practices, mortgages, rent, utilities, and insurance, mental health supports, provide tuition and copayment relief to families, and additional costs and needed modifications due to COVID-19 and maintaining or resuming the operation of a child care provider.
- Safeguards for Secure Voting: Nonpartisan experts agree that strong funding is needed to protect access to the ballot as the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on elections have continued to accelerate. The Brennan Center for Justice estimates that $4 billion is necessary to ensure that all 2020 elections, including on the state and local level, are free, fair, safe and secure, including by expanding vote-by-mail, protecting in-person voting when necessary and bolstering online registration. Democrats continue to call for $3.6 billion for states to expand safe, accessible elections. No one should ever be forced to choose between their health and their vote.