Long-awaited COVID-19 Relief Package Signed into Law
Updated: Jan 4, 2021
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) commends Congress and the White House for passing a $900 billion economic relief package that will provide aid to individuals, families and communities as COVID-19 continues to rage.
“This package delivers urgently needed help to millions of Americans who continue to struggle due to the devastating fallout from the pandemic,” said Angelo McClain, PhD, LICSW, Chief Executive Officer. “Although the COVID-19 vaccines will go a long way toward our nation’s recovery, they are only one part of the solution. The measures included in this relief package are essential in ensuring that people can meet their basic needs.”
The package includes $600 direct payments to individuals and families who meet certain income criteria. Individuals of mixed immigration status will also be eligible for stimulus payments, although other non-citizen immigrants who work and pay taxes are excluded.
Legislation to increase direct payments to $2,000 per individual will be voted on today. NASW urges Congressional Republicans to join Democrats and President Trump in support of this increase.
We are pleased that the bill includes an extension of unemployment aid. Nonetheless, it is troubling that there will be a gap in payments as benefits expired for millions of Americans because the President did not sign the bill prior to their expiration.
An additional 10 weeks of jobless benefits and a $300 weekly supplemental unemployment enhancement payment are included in the package, which also extends the eviction moratorium through January 31, 2020 and provides $25 billion in emergency rental relief.
The package also contains:
$69 billion for broader access to COVID-19 vaccines, testing, and tracing, $300 million of which is specifically directed to high risk and underserved areas for distribution, including communities of color.
$13 billion for increased benefits through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
Provisions for parents whose incomes dropped in the pandemic year by protecting against large cuts to their Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit
Expanded Pell Grants to reach 500,000 new recipients – included incarcerated individuals
Tax incentives for employers to help pay employees’ student loans, authorized through 2025
Supported funding for low-income household access to broadband internet
Provisions to stop “surprise billing” by health insurers
Critical funding for states, K-12 schools, and institutions of higher education
Reduced cuts in Medicare reimbursement for clinical social workers
“We are disappointed that student loan debt relief was not included in the package,” said CEO McClain. “We are also disappointed that only taxpayers and their dependents under 17 qualify for the direct payments. This means that millions of adult dependents, including the elderly, disabled and many high-school and college age students were excluded. We urge Congress and the Biden Administration to include these and other provisions in future relief packages.”
The National Association of Social Workers (NASW), in Washington, DC, is the largest membership organization of professional social workers. It promotes, develops, and protects the practice of social work and social workers. NASW also seeks to enhance the well-being of individuals, families, and communities through its advocacy.