House COVID-19 Stimulus Package Points the Way Forward on Direct Payments
The Senate continues to negotiate a third COVID-19 relief package, with the hope of finalizing language today. Yesterday, House Democrats introduced their proposal, the Take Responsibility for Workers and Families Act. This legislation makes significant improvements to emergency paid sick time and family and medical leave protections, boosts Unemployment Insurance benefits, and includes added funding for nutrition assistance, child care, housing assistance, and aid to states.
The House bill also offers direct assistance to families and their proposal does a significantly better job than the one released by Senate Republicans of getting relief to the women and families who are struggling the most. The House proposal would provide “economic assistance payments” of $1,500 per person ($3,000 for a married couple jointly filing their tax return), and up to $1,500 per child, up to three children. In addition to people filing tax returns using an individual taxpayer identification number, individuals receiving Social Security benefits or Supplemental Security Income would be able to receive the payments. The House bill also provides that economic assistance payments won’t affect eligibility for federal benefits programs (like nutrition assistance) which is especially important in tough economic circumstances like the ones we’re facing now.
In addition to these economic assistance payments, the House proposal would increase the Earned Income Tax Credit for workers who do not claim children for the credit for two years. The proposal would also make the Child Tax Credit (CTC) fully refundable through 2025 and increase the CTC for children under age 6. This legislation would also expand the EITC and CTC for families in Puerto Rico. These provisions would give a needed boost to families’ incomes in this time of crisis. The EITC and CTC lift millions above the poverty line every year and especially benefit women of color who are overrepresented among the workers with low wages and particularly at risk from the economic impacts of COVID-19.
The House proposal goes a long way towards ensuring that the people who are struggling the most receive economic assistance payments, although there is still more that could be done (like working with states to put such payments on Electronic Benefits Transfer cards and ensuring that dependents with disabilities are eligible to receive these payments). And the final package that the House and Senate work out needs to do more, overall for women and families – such as providing the funding we need to comprehensively support child care workers. As the Senate finalizes its legislation, the title of the House bill provides a guiding principle to make sure women’s needs are front and center: take responsibility for workers and families.