By Nora OBrien-Suric, PhD
As the long-term impact of COVID-19 and the resulting economic crisis continues to unfold, people across the United States are facing unprecedented challenges: record unemployment, evictions and loss of health care coverage. No one should have to choose between purchasing food, paying rent, or buying life-saving prescription drugs, but this is the scenario many people find themselves facing.
I am calling on our elected officials in Congress to continue fighting hard for a robust and comprehensive assistance package that will address the multiple needs that New Yorkers, the state, and its localities face in the months ahead. Many of the aid packages that are being proposed are woefully inadequate to address the multitude of problems that millions of New Yorkers who are struggling face each and every day.
As our representatives negotiate the next omnibus pandemic response package, we urge them to prioritize and include the following goals:
- Increase the federal matching rate for Medicaid (FMAP) to states to 14%, with no maintenance of effort opt-out provisions for any state. With almost 300,000 new enrollees to Medicaid in New York since the beginning of the pandemic, FMAP is a fast and efficient way to protect this essential health care program.
- New York State is facing a $13 billion deficit in its current budget year which will result in draconian cuts to essential health, education, and public safety services. Provide $1 trillion in unrestricted aid to states and localities to help them balance their budgets and avoid these unthinkable cuts.
- Food insecurity is on the rise and food banks across the country are unable to keep up with the demand. Guarantee food security by expanding eligibility for and increased funding to SNAP and other community-based food assistance programs.
- Expand paid family leave and sick leave programs and provide $50 billion in additional funding for childcare programs.
- Protect the health and safety of all essential and frontline workers by providing necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) and require OSHA to set and enforce strong workplace standards.
- Provide support to small, community-based nonprofits who provide vital services to those in need
- Ensure that any final package does not include language that undermines and jeopardizes critical programs such as Social Security and Medicare.
I appreciate all our representatives have done so far to champion the cause of New Yorkers. Together, we will continue the fight for the assistance that is needed during this dire time in our country’s history.