Allegheny County Organizations Call on U.S. Congressional Delegation to Provide Robust COVID Relief
PITTSBURGH, PA (December 7, 2020) – A new analysis by the nonpartisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) shows that hunger and hardship is dramatically increasing nationwide and in Pennsylvania. Nearly one in nine adults with children in our commonwealth say they can’t afford enough food for their children, and nearly one in five are behind on rent. One in three adults nationwide and in Pennsylvania were having trouble meeting household expenses, such as food, rent or mortgage, car payments, medical expenses, or student loans.
“As the holidays approach, we are seeing immense and growing needs — and it will get worse if Congress fails to act. We urgently need a comprehensive response to the pandemic that bring real relief to our communities,” said Ann Sanders policy advocate of Just Harvest, a local anti-hunger nonprofit that engages in advocacy, direct service, and community organizing. “We are asking our Congressional delegation to protect the health, well-being, and future of those in our region, and to not leave for holiday break without doing so.”
Just Harvest has sent a letter along with 21 other community, advocacy, and labor organizations to U.S. Senators Casey and Toomey as well as Representatives Doyle and Lamb. The letter urges these federal policymakers to enact a relief package with the following measures:
- an extension of previously enacted COVID protections that are set to expire at the end of 2020;
- adequate unemployment insurance benefits for people who have lost their jobs;
- a 15% increase in SNAP benefits by 15% to help families put food on the table;
- emergency rental assistance to help families stay in their homes;
- childcare assistance so that parents have the safe, affordable childcare they need to be able to return to work when it’s safe to do so;
- emergency grants to help low-income households that were left out of previous packages or need additional help;
- $32 billion for transit agencies to prevent service cuts, fare hikes, and system shutdowns so riders can continue to get to work in essential industries and access essential services; and
- additional aid to state and local governments to prevent more job layoffs and cuts in critical services.
Letter signer Samuel Jones, director of the Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC) Pennsylvania, says, “The pandemic is having a devastating effect on restaurant workers. These workers have a significant risk of exposure to Covid-19 due to interactions with the dining public and the necessity of working in close quarters in a restaurant setting. We desperately need extended paid emergency leave to support workers and to protect the public.” Jones says ROC PA supports the call to continue federal pandemic unemployment benefits (PUA and PUEC), which are due to expire on December 26. Their loss is estimated to affect 12 million American workers and their households.
The CBPP report and ample other research demonstrate that both the pandemic and its economic impact are disproportionately affecting communities of color. Carol Hardeman, executive director of the Hill District Consensus Group, says her group wants Congressional delegates to realize that COVID-19 is public health crisis and to “take action and extend the eviction moratorium until a vaccine is available to be administered.” She says the group sees urgent need for emergency housing and funding in order to help residents who are unable to pay their shelter costs due to the pandemic.