For more than 270 days, we have been pressing Congress to pass urgently needed legislation in response to the growing health and economic crises triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic. At last—after months of on-again-off-again negotiations and just days before essential assistance programs were set to expire—Congress has reached a deal.
The legislation includes many important priorities that FCNL lobbyists and advocates have been calling for since the spring.
The consequences of inaction would have been severe. More than 12 million people were poised to wake up on Dec. 26 having lost their unemployment assistance. Evictions threatened millions of people who are behind on rent as the CDC eviction moratorium was set to expire. Rates of hunger and food insecurity continued to climb as we edged closer to Christmas.
This deal is a compromise. It does not solve all the problems before us, but it is a big win at a critical moment. The legislation includes many important priorities that FCNL lobbyists and advocates have been calling for since the spring. Here are six important areas of relief:
- Increases Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP) benefits by 15% for six months.
- Extends expanded unemployment benefits through March 14.
- Provides an additional $300 a week in unemployment benefits through March 14 (the previous $600 a week expired at the end of July).
Housing and Homelessness
- Provides $25 billion in emergency rental assistance.
- Extends the CDC eviction moratorium for one month.
Poverty Relief and Economic Stimulus
- Allows individuals and families to use their 2019 or 2020 income to claim the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit. This is important for families who lost income in 2020 and would have otherwise received much smaller credits.
- Provides another round of stimulus checks, up to $600. These stimulus checks are available to families with mixed immigration status who were excluded from receiving the previous round of stimulus checks in March. Mixed status families may also retroactively claim the stimulus checks from the CARES Act (H.R. 748).
- Provides $10 billion for childcare and $7 billion for broadband access.
Addressing the Heath Crisis
- Provides $28 billion for vaccine purchases and distribution, plus $22 billion for testing, contract tracing, and prevention.
International COVID-19 Relief
- Provides international assistance with an additional $3.36 billion for GAVI, the international vaccine alliance.
I cannot overstate how important the passage of this legislation is in this moment of acute and growing need. Many in Congress did not want to make this deal, and it is because of your faithful, relentless advocacy that our legislators finally came to consensus at the final hour.
This relief bill is only a patch. It continues assistance for a few months. In March, we will once again face a cliff of new expiration dates. So this holiday season, let us give thanks for this bipartisan agreement. Thank your members of Congress for this pandemic relief legislation. Then, in January, we’ll come right back and start pushing for another round of relief, a bill that fully addresses the scope of the public health and economic crisis before us, one that also addresses the many systemic injustices laid bare by COVID-19.