Congress must pass new round of COVID relief to address hunger, housing insecurity and joblessness for tens of thousands of Mainers
AUGUSTA, MAINE — Maine enters the holiday season against a backdrop of remarkable hardship for families experiencing the dual crises of spiking COVID cases and an ongoing economic crisis.
Tens of thousands of Mainers are suffering during the economic downturn, according to MECEP analysis of new Household Pulse Survey data released today by US Census Bureau. The data cover a period from October 28 to November 9.
“Mainers are trying to navigate how to safely celebrate the holidays as COVID-19 cases are rising at a rapid clip in communities across the state,” said MECEP economic policy analyst James Myall. “On top of the pandemic, families are struggling to put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads. It’s critical that Congress come together to pass a new round of COVID relief to protect families from hunger and homelessness as we enter the worst phase of the pandemic we have seen.”
MECEP analysis of the Household Pulse Survey data makes the following findings:
- Hunger: 7.6 percent of Maine adults (representing almost 81,000 individuals) sometimes or often do not have enough to eat. This includes 22,000 adults in households with children.
- Housing: 6.3 percent of Maine renters (representing about 9,000 renter households) are behind on rent.
- Jobs: Almost 43,000 Mainers claimed jobless benefits in the week ending November 7. As of mid-September, almost 50,000 fewer Mainers were working compared to the same time last year.
- Basic needs: 31 percent of Maine adults (equivalent to more than 325,000 Mainers) said they had found it somewhat or very difficult to pay their usual household expenses.
The pandemic spurred a record-breaking spike in joblessness and made normal economic activity unsafe. In response to the first COVID wave this spring, Congress enacted a suite of relief programs designed to help families cover the basics, ranging from bonus unemployment payments, one-time stimulus checks, a national eviction moratorium, and additional funding for health care and food assistance. Those programs helped alleviate hardship and keep families afloat during the summer.
Many of those programs and protections have expired or run out of funding while others are slated to sunset at the end of the year, leaving Mainers adrift as winter begins and the state is experiencing a surge in COVID cases.
“The relief is gone, but the pandemic and hardship are getting worse,” said MECEP executive director Garrett Martin. “Congress must act to help Mainers stay safe at home until vaccines are widely available and face-to-face economic activity is safe once again.”
For up-to-date indicators on the pandemic’s impact on Mainers and our economy, see MECEP’s interactive COVID-19 dashboard.
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