Speaker Pelosi and Senator Schumer met with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows on Saturday to discuss new COVID legislation and again on Monday. Although the meeting was a “productive discussion” and talks are continuing, they are not near an official agreement. Senator McConnell is not participating in the discussions but is being briefed later. While this was the process in the prior bills, this set of negotiations is very different for two reasons. First, Senator McConnell and Republican colleagues already negotiated the terms of the Senate Republican bill with the White House, rejecting some provisions such as a payroll tax reduction or temporary suspension that the President had as a high priority. Second, the prior bills were ultimately passed by unanimous consent. This bill is likely to have a significant number of Republicans voting against it, (some say half the Republican caucus), which means that McConnell is going to have to figure out how many votes he can secure and how many the Democrats have to provide to get to the 60 needed for passage. When he is not in the room for the negotiations, it makes the process harder and delays them. The lack of Republican support for even the relatively small Republican proposal gives the Democrats a very strong hand in negotiations since it increases the number of Democratic votes needed. The lack of unanimous consent also means it will take several days to get the bill passed once a deal is reached, so no deal is likely to become final until next week at the earliest.
Meanwhile the President is suggesting he can unilaterally impose the payroll tax suspension or an eviction moratorium but most people say he lacks legal authority to do so.
Most important is the Administration’s decision to cut short the Census timeline and withdraw its request for a four month extension. The Bureau announced Monday that all the self-response process will end at the end of September. This means that it would cut short NRFU-the period when census takers knock on doors.The Partnership has issued a statement calling on Congress to extend the legislative deadline so the Census Bureau has time to complete the census fairly and accurately.
If this happens, the census will fail and children will be disproportionately hurt. More than a third of households still haven’t responded-and barely half the households in areas with a very high risk of missing young children have responded.
At the state level you can issue a statement in opposition to the effort to shortchange census operations that count young children, people of color, American Indians, low-income people, and people experiencing homelessness. You can write an Op-ed on the harm of an inaccurate and incomplete census on your community. Here is a template letter specifically about kids that you can send to your Senators, perhaps getting colleague organizations to sign it as well:
You can ask your representatives to sign the “Dear Colleague” letter being circulated by Rep. Jayapal (please email me, email@example.com, if you did not receive it).
Finally, you can send an action alert to your members encouraging them to call their Senators to vote to extend the statutory deadlines for reporting apportionment and redistricting data from the 2020 Census.
Also, as you continue to do outreach to your community about the census, you can encourage families to fill out the census “as soon as possible” instead of referencing the new September deadline. If we are successful in getting the Census extended we don’t want people thinking it’s too late to fill it out in October.
The post office may run out of funds by April 2021. As a result, it is currently delaying the delivery of mail in many cases in order to avoid overtime costs. The CARES ACT included loan funding of $10 billion for the Post Office, but the administration has refused to provide the loan with a dispute over the terms, which may now be resolved. The Post Office has said it needs significant additional assistance in grant form, and the House Heroes Act includes $25 billion in grants. The post office is imperative not only for elections, but also as an essential service for lower income families to have access to benefits, pay their bills, and receive essential goods such as medicines. Including funding for the U.S. Postal Service in the final relief package is a children’s issue.
The Senate HEALS Act does not include an extension of the WIC waiver to allow the programs to provide food coupons without actually seeing the children physically. The final relief package must extend USDA’s waiver authority to at least September 30, 2021. Extending waiver authority for providers will allow WIC providers, both state and local, to have time to acclimate to the current conditions instead of opening prematurely. WIC program requirements (including the physical presence requirement) were waived in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. This waiver will expire on September 30. Without the remote service that the waiver has enabled, WIC clinic staff and families will experience an increased risk of contracting coronavirus. Consequently, some families may choose not to receive WIC support if they have to be present physically, in the midst of a pandemic.
Waiver extensions would allow WIC providers to deliver their services remotely while they prepare to reopen clinics safely and while, we hope, the incidence of COVID declines.
Child Care Provision
Last Wednesday, both the Child Care is Essential Act and the Child Care for Economic Recovery Act passed the House. Both bills passed with bipartisan support.
Although these are great wins, we have to ensure that $50 billion is included for supporting child care within the final relief package. The HEALS Act provides only $15 billion for child care. That is more than is in the COVID relief bill the House passed, but it’s still woefully insufficient.
The Senate proposal allows the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) to lapse. P-EBT provides SNAP benefits to families who were no longer able to access free or reduced school meals as a result of school closures. The House HEROES Act extends P-EBT through 2021 (allowing families to receive resources through the summer and if schools close due to another outbreak) and includes children enrolled in child care. The HEALS Act did not extend P-EBT although current food insecurity in the U.S. could affect 1 in 3 adults and 1 in 2 children.
Note that if schools cannot feed kids when they are learning remotely, it puts enormous pressure on them to open up for all kids every day of the school week even when it’s a substantial health risk. Also, allowing child care food programs to use the same feeding options as schools makes sure young kids get fed and families only have to go to one location.
Debbie Stein Partnership for America’s Children
The Children’s Agenda advocates for effective policies and drives evidenced-based solutions for the health, education and success of children. We are especially committed to children who are vulnerable because of poverty, racism, health inequities and trauma.