Consensus builds for family-centered coronavirus relief

shutterstock 549969631 US Capitol building. / Lane V. Erickson/Shutterstock

As Congress considers another coronavirus relief package, members from both parties are highlighting the need to include assistance for working families.

Both Senate Democrats and Republicans have either introduced or plan to introduce proposals to fund child care and provide a boost to new parents during the coronavirus pandemic. Congress has not passed a major relief bill in several months after the CARES Act and subsequent stimulus bills were signed into law in the spring.

Last week, in an open letter, a group of conservative intellectuals called on Congress to remember the "severe financial distress" of many American families.

"The coming months will be very difficult for many Americans and their families as they try to regain their financial footing after an unforeseeable blow," the letter stated. Signers of the letter included researcher W. Bradford Wilcox of the Institute for Family Studies, Princeton professor Robert George, and journalist Kathryn Jean Lopez.

The group of signers asked Congress to expand the Child Tax Credit and the Earned-Income Tax Credit to provide relief for families.

"These two tax policies are proven to be the most effective programs at lifting Americans out of poverty and expanding them now would provide much needed aid to America's working families," the July 16 letter stated.

The U.S. Catholic bishops have also weighed in on the matter of pandemic relief and public policy; in a May 22 statement, Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City-the U.S. bishops' domestic justice chair-called on Congress to remember the poor and vulnerable in coronavirus relief legislation.

He wrote that "the focus should be on those most in need-the poor, the vulnerable, and people on the margins-to offer them some hope and assistance in desperate circumstances."

Recently, members of Congress of both parties have signaled that they will try to pass a bill that targets relief to working families.

Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) said last week that he will try to attach his paid family leave proposal to an upcoming COVID relief bill as an amendment. Cassidy told McClatchy that he would try to include it as a five-year pilot program.

His proposal, which he introduced last July with Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), would allow parents to access a $5,000 benefit upfront upon the birth of a child, and would pay for it by subtracting $500 each subsequent year from their child tax credit, for ten years.

Senate Democrats, led by Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) released a proposal on July 16 as part of the Economic Justice Act, that would, among other things, invest $50 billion in child care.

Congress approved $3 trillion in relief in the spring for the mass school, church, and business closures during the coronavirus pandemic. In mid-May, the House approved another $3 trillion in relief under the HEROES Act, but the bill stalled in the Senate.

The HEROES Act included a second round of direct payments to households and an extension of unemployment benefits; it would have allowed for abortion funding as well, and Bishop David O'Connell of Trenton said it would bar Catholic schools from getting relief that public schools would receive.

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