Dire times could worsen for Missouri families on the brink

By Mary Schuermann Kuhlman, Courtesy of Public News Service

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- As the U.S. Senate returns to work this week, there are urgent calls for legislators to act quickly to ensure all Missouri families can meet their basic needs during and after the COVID crisis.

In the next two weeks, a moratorium on evictions will expire along with federal emergency unemployment benefits. Jeanette Mott Oxford, director of policy and organizing with Empower Missouri, said that could be a double whammy for the 4-in-10 Missouri households that have someone who has lost a job in recent months.

“A lot of people are having real difficulty buying all the food that they need making sure that all their rent is paid,” Mott Oxford said. “It’s a time of great instability and uncertainty; there’s just so much to worry about right now.”

The U.S. House passed the HEROES Act in May, a $3 trillion aid package that includes a broad range of supports including extended unemployment benefits, hazard pay, housing assistance and funding for cities and states. However, some have strongly criticized the bill’s price tag and its provisions expanding unemployment.

The HEROES Act passed on a party line vote. The executive director of the Coalition on Human Needs - a national non-profit group - Deborah Weinstein, said it will help address the unprecedented challenges families are facing.

“We have not experienced anything like this for 100 years: we’ve got a stubborn disease that is keeping our economy from functioning the way it should,” Weinstein said. “We cannot let our families suffer in this way. The consequences to children are so grave.”

State and local governments are facing plummeting revenues due to the crisis, and with rising COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Missouri, Weinstein contended it’s crucial for federal leaders to pass a relief package to help the most vulnerable. Senate Republicans are in favor of a relief bill that would provide direct stimulus payments to Americans and relief for businesses.

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