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Dec 21 | Relief Deal Summary and Statement

Updated: Dec 21, 2020 Statement on December Relief Deal

Congressional leadership has finally reached a deal on the relief bill.

It is 6 months late and 2 trillion dollars short, but it does mean that 12 million people will not lose all benefits December 26th. There will be some aid that will help people & families. There is still so much work to do, but this is a win. Every bit of what was gained is thanks to the advocacy and bravery of unemployed workers and our allies. Thank you.

Basics in the bill that relate to our mission statement of asks:

  • 11 added weeks for PUA & PEUC claims

  • $300 FPUC added to all claims for 11 wks (no retroactivity)

  • $100 added for people who would have been eligible for a decent sized PUA benefit, but only qualified for a small UI benefit instead (mixed income earners fix)

  • Some rent relief ($25B) + eviction moratorium ext.

  • $600 "stimulus” checks

  • 15% increase for SNAP

  • Save Our Stages and a second round of PPP

  • Funding for vaccine distribution

UPDATE: More details and full text here.

Congress needs to pass this deal immediately, but they should be embarrassed that they are calling this “relief” after 6 months of inaction.

FPUC needed to be retroactive and long term.

Not only is 11 weeks not enough, Congress is completely ignoring their lack of action for the last 5 months. It has been MORE THAN TWENTY WEEKS since FPUC payments expired, leaving tens of millions of Americans surviving on just state UI or PUA payments, which are not, and were never designed to be, a livable wage in any state.

The FPUC has been in every bill proposal, including Senator McConnell's own bill in the Fall; it has had bipartisan support at the level of at least $300 since its expiration in July. The American people should not be punished for the delay in progress. That is cruel and places the burden of government inaction on struggling citizens. The lack of retroactivity is the #1 concern we are hearing from our community, and we will be pushing this issue.

Tens of millions of us are in deep holes of debt because of our commitment to stopping the spread of the virus per the government’s command. We did our part, and yet over 10 million people are behind on rent. Halved payments in 2021 will not back-pay at least 5 months of rent and other accrued debt from 2020. UI is as little as $7/week for people in our collective.

In our survey of 1,300 unemployed workers, we found the majority of them are receiving less than $200/week. 44% of them are receiving less than ¼ of their previous income. The full results of our report provide a strong and clear case for the need of both retroactive FPUC and also stimulus checks.

Americans are in deep financial crises. The new Congress and Biden administration will need to go back and fix this error of missing payments from August-December. If they don’t, personal and overall economic recovery will continue to suffer for years.

We should not be pitting the need for unemployment support against the need for direct aid.

Adding the $600 “stimulus payment” to the bill meant cutting 5 weeks of unemployment. We ALSO need direct aid. Millions of people in the US are unemployed and are not eligible for unemployment. Those workers have received NO assistance since the $1,200 check. In addition, tens of millions of Americans have been severely underemployed throughout this crisis. These are our essential workers who are putting their lives at risk and other workers with cut hours and pay. These people are not eligible for unemployment, and direct aid is necessary to keep them and their families in their homes and able to afford their lives. Some of the people who have been unemployed have also been forced back into unsafe positions in the workforce and underemployment by the expired FPUC and unlivable unemployment. 32% of our worker-respondents said they are currently underemployed. 85.8% of those people are earning less than half of their previous income. 53.9% of them are earning less than a quarter of their previous income. We need direct aid payments to these underemployed workers so they can dig their way out of the debt of the last 6 months and still pay for their needs now. This need is in addition to, not in conflict with, the need for extended and retroactive FPUC.

Rent Relief must be robust and the eviction moratorium must be included.

$25 billion in targeted rent relief isn’t enough after 6 months of Congressional inaction. Tens of millions of people in this country across financial spectrums are at risk of losing, or have already lost their homes. People have gone 9 months either unemployed or severely underemployed with little to no assistance from the federal government we pay into. The need is massive. $25 billion is not nearly enough, especially without retroactive payments. It is the middle of winter and no person should be forced into homelessness because the government was unable to contain the virus by now. A one month extension of the already inadequate eviction moratorium is, frankly, pathetic.

And then there’s everything that’s completely missing.

Everything above are the “wins”, they represent the emaciated relief the government can stand to part with. Every other demand is just missing completely. No healthcare relief: We need COBRA subsidies, expanded Medicare, and extended healthcare open enrollment. No funding for state and local governments: we desperately need funding for states to continue to employ workers, adapt and update UI servers, and for integral pandemic response programs like state shelters for those already forced into homelessness.

The US government is either completely out of touch with our real needs, completely inept at doing their job, or they don’t care.

Mitch McConnell is at fault.

Yes, it is the fault of Senate Majority Leader McConnell and his GOP enablers. The price cap they are putting on the bill is made up and ridiculous. The push for liability protections was incredibly problematic. (Though they did not make it into the bill, their removal resulted in state and local funding being cut from the bill.)

There was a push late in negotiations from the GOP for the $300 benefit to not be available to those who receive less that $100 in UI.

Another measure pushed by the GOP is that people should NOT receive the $600 check IF they are receiving unemployment because that would be a “double benefit.” This attempt did not succeed. However, they did successfully write into the bill $5 billion dollars in business meal tax write-offs, write-offs for what is generally referred to as the “three martini lunch.”

These pushes show a real disdain for the American people by the GOP and it is appalling to see people in our leadership who think so lowly of us and want to help so little. Mitch McConnell has shown Georgia must elect two Democrats to the US Senate for us to receive more relief.

Democrats didn't adequately champion the American people.

The unemployment assistance and relief to individuals weren't the major points of contention in these negotiations and still we lost so much. McConnell’s proposal had the PUC at $300 months ago and Democrats aren’t even able to make that insufficient amount retroactive? Stimulus payments, which have also been agreed on for months, are now halved and only a one-time check. Once again, all Americans are being punished for the government’s inability to act until now.

This relief bill is frankly an insult to the American people.

But if we do nothing, millions more Americans will continue to spiral financially and emotionally, forced to draw from what little resources they have left in order to survive. In a time when congressional leaders could be verifying that what they have proposed and agreed upon will adequately address the needs of the people, they are instead debating how little they can get away with doing and how late they can get away with doing it. This bill is, quite literally, the least they could possibly do.

And still, we must pass it. Because it’s all we’ve got.

What’s Next?

We will update with details as the full text comes out today and we will continue fighting for more relief in the new year, with creative solutions to deal with the lack of retroactivity, more relief in terms of rent and healthcare assistance, and assistance for those that are still left behind by all of these programs. This is not enough. This crisis is not over. More is needed, the deadline extensions are, again, ending too soon, and retroactivity is necessary for the continued survival of millions of Americans as well as our faith in a government that seems completely out of touch with our needs.

Thank you for all you have done and continue to do.

We are with you.

Stephanie, Grant, and The Team

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