As Senate negotiations on the next COVID-19 relief package come to a head, Mainers need Congress to deliver for families, communities and our economy
AUGUSTA, Maine — As the COVID-19 pandemic and recession continue, the Maine Center for Economic Policy is calling on Sen. Susan Collins to deliver a federal relief package that puts Maine’s families, communities and economy on the road to recovery.
Specifically, MECEP is calling on Sen. Collins to push for the next federal relief bill to include more emergency aid for states and territories, an extension of emergency unemployment benefits for laid-off workers, increased funding for health care and housing, and a stronger social safety net for low-income families affected by the crisis. (See details below).
“We are long overdue for a federal response to the pandemic and recession that meets the magnitude of the crisis,” said MECEP Executive Director Garrett Martin. “Unemployment continues to smash pre-pandemic records while more and more Mainers are worried about covering basic needs such as food and housing. Maine needs Congress to step up and deliver adequate relief. Senator Collins is an important voice in the US Senate and Mainers need her to do what’s necessary to protect our health and economic security so we can rebuild and recover.”
Given the unprecedented urgency of the crisis, MECEP is reaching out to Mainers across the state to educate and engage the public as the US Senate continues to craft the next COVID-19 relief package.
“Decisions being made in Congress will determine whether Maine is poised for recovery or forced to face more layoffs and a worse recession. Every Mainer has a stake in this outcome, and we’re reaching out to them through mail, phone calls, digital outreach and paid advertising to make those stakes clear and ensure Mainers have an opportunity to make their voices heard,” Martin said.
As part of its public education campaign, MECEP will publish an Open Letter to Senator Collins as a full-page advertisement in Saturday’s Bangor Daily News and Portland Press Herald. A copy of the ad is available here. MECEP’s outreach is expected to reach hundreds of thousands of Mainers during the course of Congressional negotiations.
MECEP is urging Sen. Collins to ensure the next COVID-19 relief package includes at least the following provisions:
- At least $500 billion in emergency grants to states and territories to cover costs associated with the pandemic and revenue shortfalls triggered by the recession. Left unaddressed, those shortfalls will spur additional layoffs and delay economic recovery. This benchmark was set by the bipartisan National Governors Association and must be approved independent of additional relief for municipalities and tribal governments.
- Extension of emergency unemployment compensation created by the CARES Act at least through 2021, with automatic extensions thereafter for as long as the economy takes to recover. Without Congressional action, these benefits will expire on July 31, slashing incomes for tens of thousands of Maine families.
- A 14 percent increase in federal Medicaid matching funds, up from the 6.8 percent increase approved by Congress in March.
- Increases in federal food assistance and cash assistance programs for families in need as a result of the recession, including a temporary 15 percent increase to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) maximum allotment, loosening or elimination of work requirements, and funding for costs associated with meeting increased need. Congress must also increase the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) funding for cash assistance, extend time limits, and make it easier for families to get assistance even if they are out of work.
- Increase in federal housing assistance, including an investment of $26 billion in Emergency Housing Vouchers to help 500,000 extremely low-income individuals and families who are homeless, at risk of homelessness, or fleeing domestic violence. Congress must also provide $11.5 billion in Emergency Shelter Grant (ESG) program funding for homelessness-related services.