Statement on U.S. Senate COVID Aid Proposal

By Jason Bailey
July 28, 2020

“The Senate proposal released yesterday provides nowhere near the aid Kentucky and the nation need to get through the resurging COVID-19 economic and health crisis. Its inadequacies will leave Kentucky families struggling, particularly those hardest hit by the pandemic including laid off workers, Kentuckians of color and people with low incomes. And by neglecting the strategies that will keep our economy going, it will make the recession deeper, longer and more painful.

The proposal’s denial of any additional general aid to state and local governments or help with state Medicaid costs is unimaginable. The resulting budget cuts will hamper our ability to fight COVID-19, weaken critical community services and force more workers to the unemployment lines. The aid provided to schools contains conditions that could pressure districts to reopen prematurely and unsafely even while not providing what’s needed to protect schools from harmful budget cuts.

Deeply cutting supplemental unemployment benefits from $600 week to $200 (and then pegging it to 70% of wages) will add strain to struggling families at a time when jobs are extremely scarce, and will take $80 million a week out of the Kentucky economy. Despite dangerously spiking food and housing insecurity, the bill doesn’t include a needed increase in SNAP food assistance and fails to provide the targeted housing aid needed to keep a roof over people’s heads. These deficiencies and others will depress the economy, meaning more shuttered businesses and people out of work.

The pain that will result is unnecessary and avoidable. COVID-19 cases are rising dangerously, unemployment is at a historic high and temporary layoffs are becoming permanent. The Senate must agree quickly to a plan that meets the needs of people and communities and is large enough to sustain the economy through the emergency of a lifetime.”

Key facts and needs for an aid package include:

  • Half of Kentuckians say they have lost household employment income since COVID-19 hit, and Black Kentuckians have been laid off at higher rates. The $600 in supplemental unemployment benefits has been a lifeline for families and a critical economic boost. Congress must extend the $600 a week until the economy is truly recovering.
  • Without more aid, Kentucky state government faces budget cuts of 16% – 29% this year and local governments will also face huge revenue shortfalls, meaning job losses for essential public workers and cuts to schools, Medicaid and other critical services. Congress must provide much more in aid to states and localities and increase the share of Medicaid costs the federal government pays.  
  • The percentage of Kentuckians who are food insecure rose from 15.3% before COVID-19 to 25.8% by April and May; Congress must increase SNAP benefit levels to reduce rising household hunger.
  • More than 1 in 4 Kentuckians who rent have no confidence or only slight confidence they will be able to pay next month’s rent, including 58% of Black renting Kentuckians. Congress must provide much more in housing assistance so people can keep shelter in this crisis.