Federal lawmakers want the next coronavirus relief package to ensure needed services and aid reaches the most vulnerable low-income Americans affected by the pandemic.
Rep. Joe Morelle, a Rochester-area Democrat, called for a provision in the next bill that would streamline and modernize how eligible recipients can access services to alleviate hunger and food insecurity, receive affordable housing, and expanded banking services.
The proposal was backed by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand as well.
“Low-income individuals and families face significant barriers that too often hold them back from accessing the benefits they need and deserve,” Morelle said in a statement. “And especially now, as Americans are struggling to get through this public health crisis, it’s more important than ever that we take action to uplift the most vulnerable among us and empower families with the tools they need to succeed.”
Lower-income people are more likely to have lost their jobs or have been furloughed due to the economic disruption in the wake of the spread of the virus.
“As we grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s more important than ever to ensure that low-income New Yorkers can access the critical benefits they need,” Gillibrand said. “The federal government has a responsibility to make anti-poverty, health care, nutrition, housing, and work support programs accessible to as many people as possible, so struggling families have the tools to seize economic opportunity. Modernizing our safety net programs is an urgent priority and I’m proud to lead the HOPE Act in the Senate.”
Nationally, more than 26 million people have sought unemployment benefits, but in many cases, people have struggled to access the money due to misinformation over eligibility, long wait times, dropped calls, or an inability to start the application process.
At the same time, applications for SNAP benefits have sharply increased, and there have been backlogs.