The Need for Federal Pandemic Relief
As federal assistance to workers, states and counties begins to run out and as U.S. House and Senate leaders prepare to negotiate over a possible new package of federal aid, the Mayor joined Citizen Action Wisconsin, United Way and Kids Forward to call upon federal officials to treat the ongoing economic crisis with the urgency it deserves. The nation needs new jobs, workers need sustained income to pay for housing and food, and schools and child care institutions need new funds to weather the year ahead.
Below are my comments from the July 15 press conference:
For most Madisonians, this has been one of the most challenging years of our lives.
Many Madison residents have lost their jobs, they are struggling to pay their rent, they are relying on food pantries, and they are struggling to keep their kids healthy and happy in the middle of a dangerous pandemic.
The stress on residents and families has been immense.
Many businesses especially in the hospitality, entertainment, restaurant and retail industries are experiencing financial devastation. Many “Madison Favorites” are closing their doors for good.
This summer the burden on our residents will continue to mount:
- A state moratorium on utility shut-offs will July 25, meaning households could be without electricity, air conditioning and/or internet.
- The $600 addition to federal unemployment assistance that has helped people pay their rent and stay afloat will end on July 31.
- Evictions are increasing because the state moratorium expired and the federal moratorium on evictions for federally subsidized housing units will end July 24. The federal moratorium on mortgage foreclosures ends August 31.
- And come September, Madison families may face a significant new need for child care as our schools make tough decisions about how to educate our kids during a pandemic.
This is unacceptable. People need help. This pandemic has created unprecedented public health and economic challenges and we need every level of government to take action.
The city is taking action by upholding public health best practices, supporting small businesses in a number of ways, investing in affordable housing and homeownership, finding safe housing for our homeless population, funding culturally competent organizations to connect people to the benefits they are eligible for and helping to make masks available in the community.
The state needs to take action as well. We need state support to continue extensive COVID-19 testing statewide to help keep all of us safe.
And I am calling upon the state Public Service Commission to extend the moratorium on utility shut-offs through next April. I sent them a letter yesterday urging them to take this action because:
- You can’t get a job if you can’t charge your phone or computer.
- Online schooling is impossible without access to broadband and electricity.
- And losing access to a fan or air conditioning during a hot summer when many public cooling centers are closed is downright dangerous
We need the federal government to take action and to take action now.
I’m grateful for the initial round of support through the federal CARES Act and Paycheck Protection Program.
The bad news is that there is lack of consensus over any further aid package in Congress even as this crisis continues.
Unemployment in Dane County is up more than 800% from January. And just last week, there were over 2,100 NEW applications for unemployment in the County as businesses continue to stagger.
So we are here today to tell our federal policymakers that they need to act. Congress must pass another COVID federal aid package and make sure that it reaches local communities. It’s good news that congressional leaders are beginning to talk about this.
- That means expanding unemployment benefits so that people who have lost their jobs don’t also lose their homes.
- That means expanding federal aid for child care so that if schools start to experience problems parents will have other options
- That means helping small businesses keep their doors open and pay their workers to ensure these businesses can survive until we have a vaccine for COVID-19.
- It also means supporting local government big cities and small towns across Wisconsin which are leading the charge against COVID with community testing, contact tracing and other measures to break the chain of transmission. Local governments also provide the BACKBONE essential services, including the ambulance services, water, transportation & affordable housing services, that residents rely on more than ever.
- It also means creating new jobs for those who have lost them. We need a bold federal investment in state and local transitional jobs programs. And the best new jobs build skills and present an opportunity to build back an even stronger, more resilient community than what we had before.
We can invest in clean energy jobs and replace aging infrastructure with greener, more resilient, 21st century solutions.
We can get jobs those who need them most, reducing poverty and racial disparities in the process.
So I have advocated for passage of the Heroes Act in Congress, this bill would infuse $11 billion into our state and communities, but it has been held up in the Senate. As the longevity of this crises becomes clearer, pressure is building for new package. Madison’s own Tammy Baldwin has authored the Jobs for Economic Recovery Act, which would finance six months of wages and benefits for public, private, or nonprofit jobs. Funds could also be used for green job training and services like child care to help workers succeed upon completion of their job placement.
Thank you to Citizen Action of WI, Kids Forward and United Way for helping shine a spotlight on the incredible need for federal assistance right now.