Plan overlooks the pressing needs of a growing majority of Michiganders
LANSING—The Michigan League for Public Policy issued the following statement on the U.S. Senate Republicans’ COVID relief plan announced late yesterday. The statement can be attributed to Michigan League for Public Policy President and CEO Gilda Z. Jacobs.
“Since COVID-19 first hit Michigan and in the trying months since, the League has been working hard to limit the havoc and hardship it is causing in Michigan residents’ daily lives. We have said all along that we need significant federal help to counter this health crisis and the subsequent fiscal crisis in our state. It was not a partisan issue to ‘CARE’ about COVID a few months ago, and it shouldn’t be a partisan issue to be ‘HEROES’ now. Unfortunately, after largely unanimous support for federal COVID relief early on, the U.S. Senate Republicans’ counterproposal announced yesterday shows that that solidarity, selflessness and compassion has significantly fizzled—even though the gravity of the situation and the circumstances facing many Michigan families has not.
“Nearly half a million Michiganders do not have enough to eat, and SNAP food assistance enrollment went up by one-third from February to May 2020. Twenty-two percent of Michigan residents are behind on rent. And Michigan had the third highest average unemployment rate in the country from April to June. But the Republican proposal fails to meet the needs of our state or the moment, with no increase in SNAP benefits, no funding for homelessness services or additional rent vouchers, and substantially less money for laid-off workers. And it does not include nearly enough aid to state and local governments to prevent layoffs of teachers and public workers and cuts to schools, Medicaid or other critical public services.
“Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters continue to be strong advocates for Michigan’s needs during this difficult time, and we know they will keep fighting for a better relief package in the Senate. Hopefully Senate Republicans will see the error of their ways and put people before politics as negotiations continue.”
New research released last week by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities shows the number of people struggling to get enough to eat has increased dramatically and a huge number of people are falling behind on rent—just as the state and national moratoriums on evictions expire. While tens of millions of people are facing serious financial hardship, Black, Latino, Indigenous, and immigrant people have been hit the hardest because of structural racism that creates disparities in education, employment, housing, and healthcare.
The League has been fighting since the COVID crisis began to make sure the needs of residents with lower incomes, people of color and immigrants in Michigan are front and center. The League compiled a series of COVID-19 policy briefs and has been a vocal advocate for state-level reforms as well as increased federal relief funding. Most recently, League CEO Gilda Z. Jacobs wrote an OpEd in the Detroit Free Press about the need for the U.S. Senate to pass the House’s HEROES Act and address these primary COVID-related policy needs:
Flexible state fiscal relief: More federal funding and flexibility on how it can be used is essential to helping the Michigan Legislature plug the multibillion-dollar hole in the state budget and avoid severe cuts to schools, infrastructure, local governments and more.
Food assistance: Additional funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is needed so that families and workers don’t have to go hungry while they wait on the economy to recover.
Expanded unemployment insurance: Unemployment has been and will continue to be an issue in the throes of COVID and beyond as consumer behavior continues to evolve. We need to make sure that unemployment assistance evolves with workers’ changing needs. Increased unemployment insurance payments help workers who have lost their jobs provide for themselves and their families until they can get back to work.
The temporary increase in the share of federal matching funds for Medicaid (FMAP): This federal program gives states the ability to afford the state Medicaid program and, in Michigan’s case, the highly successful Healthy Michigan Plan, freeing up state dollars for other budget priorities.
The Michigan League for Public Policy, www.mlpp.org, is a nonprofit policy institute focused on economic opportunity for all. It is the only state-level organization that addresses poverty in a comprehensive way.