Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
One of the best tools to protect access to urgently needed behavioral health care, including mental health and substance use services, is to raise the federal share of Medicaid costs (or “FMAP”). House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s new economic relief bill would do that by building on the modest, shorter-term FMAP increases that policymakers provided in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act of March.
To help prevent cuts to home- and community-based services (HCBS), policymakers should substantially raise the federal government’s share of state Medicaid costs (the “FMAP”), as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s new economic relief proposal would do. The bill also includes an important, targeted FMAP increase for HCBS, and both policies are needed to ensure that seniors and people with disabilities can access these services.
In response to the COVID-19 public health and economic crises, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act included three expansions of unemployment insurance (UI) benefits:
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s coronavirus relief bill provides a much-needed Medicaid funding boost to help states preserve health coverage and address massive state budget shortfalls stemming from the public health and economic crises.
States received a temporary increase in federal Medicaid funding in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. In exchange, they can’t impose new Medicaid eligibility restrictions or take away people’s coverage during the public health emergency — requirements referred to as “maintenance of effort” (MOE) protections.
Absent the COVID-19 pandemic, the near-term outlook for the Social Security trust funds would have changed very little in the past year.
The health risks and hardship due to rapidly rising food insecurity during the pandemic and economic crisis, which we discussed here, are falling disproportionately on people of color and people with low incomes.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s coronavirus relief bill includes urgently needed funds to help low-income people rent safe, stable housing during the pandemic and deep economic downturn. Without this aid, many could face eviction and homelessness, exposing them to hardship and health risks. The final bill that the President and Congress enact should include these rental assistance funds and add more resources for Housing Choice Vouchers to help more people with the lowest incomes.
The severity and scope of the crisis require a robust response that matches the challenge. The Pelosi package, while not perfect, steps up to the plate and provides the type of response the nation needs.
Other stimulus measures that would be highly effective, and for which there is great need, should not be held hostage to a poorly conceived payroll tax cut proposal.
Most of the jobs lost in the first two months of the sharp economic downturn — most of which came in April — have occurred in industries that pay low average wages. As a result, the deep downturn has hit hardest at workers who already faced barriers to economic opportunity, including Latino and Black workers, workers without a bachelor’s degree, and immigrants, our analysis shows.
Early data on rising food insecurity during the pandemic and deep economic crisis reveal how widespread the hardship is becoming, underscoring the need for a robust policy response — including raising maximum SNAP (food stamp) benefits and fixing SNAP limitations in the relief measures enacted thus far.
The health and economic burdens of COVID-19 are falling disproportionately on people of color and people with very low incomes — who faced significant economic and health challenges before the pandemic — and the new Pandemic TANF Assistance Act would provide financial assistance to many of these families and protection from the negative consequences of previous policies.
With millions of Americans struggling to meet their basic food needs in light of COVID-19, states are using new options to support households through SNAP (food stamps) and school meal replacement programs. But Puerto Rico — which was already at a relative disadvantage when the pandemic began — can’t use the same new tools and options.
Temporarily Expanding Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit Would Deliver Effective Stimulus, Help Avert Poverty Spike
The next fiscal stimulus package should include specific expansions of the CTC and EITC that would deliver well-timed, high “bang-for-the-buck” economic stimulus to millions of low-income households.
The COVID-19 crisis is presenting challenges to people applying for Medicaid and SNAP (food stamps) and — while states have limited ability to substantially modify their systems during the crisis — they can take some steps to make applications more accessible.
Because people can’t apply for Medicaid and SNAP in person due to office closures and social distancing, many people must adapt to a new way of interacting with social service agencies by submitting applications online, through agency call centers, or with the help of community assisters.
States can help them by:
"Congress should support states in making these changes by further increasing Medicaid’s federal match rate."Many state Medicaid programs are proposing or implementing new policies to respond to COVID-19 and maintain access to health care during the public health crisis.
South Dakota’s Governor Kristi Noem says her state doesn’t need more federal fiscal relief; it just needs the Treasury Department to let it use previously provided relief funds to cover revenue shortfalls. The argument apparently has gained traction among some congressional Republicans.
As policymakers consider additional steps nationally to address the pandemic and its economic fallout, they need to take into account Puerto Rico’s unique circumstances.