We are eager for the US Senate to pass substantive legislation to address the health and economic issues caused by the pandemic. Our faiths teach us that each person is beloved by God and worthy of dignity and humanity. We urge members of the Senate and House to move swiftly to adopt a stimulus package that reduces hardships for the most vulnerable and takes steps toward restoring the vitality of our economy.
TMO calls on Senators Cornyn and Cruz and all House members to:
1. Support the full $600 per week federal supplemental unemployment insurance.
The CARES Act provided an additional $600/week to supplement the very low unemployment benefits provided by the State of Texas. The current Senate bill would reduce that supplement to just $200/week. In order to help families cover their current living costs and keep our economy afloat, Congress must continue the $600/week supplement until pandemic has subsided.
2. Provide $100 Billion in rent assistance
Over 40% of renters in Texas recently said they were unsure if they could pay their August rent. More than half of renters pay more than 30% of their income in rent. Rent assistance programs offered by the City of Houston and Harris County have met only a small fraction of the need. The House bill proposes allocating $100 Billion for Rent Assistance, while the current Senate proposal has nothing for rent assistance.
3. All those with Social Security numbers should receive a stimulus check
The CARES Act provided $1200 in stimulus to adult taxpayers and $500 for each of their minor dependents. If anyone in the home filed taxes using an Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN) instead of a Social Security number, no one in the home received a stimulus payment. TMO believes that any stimulus targeted toward individuals and families must be provided to all members of the family who have Social Security numbers or who have paid income taxes using an ITIN.
4. Increase Funding for public education to make digital learning possible and to safely reopen schools.
Less than one percent of federal pandemic relief has gone to K-12 education. To make distance learning possible, public schools need funding to assure each student has access to broadband internet, a computer and virtual classroom technology. School may need to provide individualized tutors for at-risk students and children with special needs. To safely reopen schools, Congress must fund testing capacity with same-day results for schools; access to masks, distance thermometers and protective equipment; additional staff & expanded facilities to meet CDC guidelines for class sizes and increased bus routes to allow for social distancing while in transit to school.
5. Increase federal share of Medicaid costs while requiring Medicaid Maintenance of Effort
If the federal government pays more of the cost of Texas’ Medicaid program, more state funds will remain to cover other essential costs. When the federal government does contribute a greater share of the cost of Texas Medicaid, our state must continue offering the same Medicaid services to our families.
Leaders and Clergy of The Metropolitan Organization