US Senate Republicans today announced a new COVID-19 relief package that will do little to actually help struggling Californians. Beyond the reduced unemployment benefits negatively impacting millions of Californians, the new proposal includes no new aid to state and local governments, likely forcing major cuts to education, health care, and other vital human services that are needed now more than ever.
In contrast, the HEROES Act passed by the House of Representatives, includes $500 billion in aid for states, additional help for local governments, increased Medicaid matching funds, other funds supporting human services, and direct financial assistance to help consumers maintain their employer-based health care coverage. These elements are the only way to help Californians out of this economic and public health crisis.
Even before the second shutdown, Californians had significant need for additional state aid, help with health care costs and coverage, and much more. With over 8,000 deaths due to COVID-19, and six million unemployment claims filed, Californians desperately need help at the scale of what the House passed, if not more.
The Senate Republicans spent weeks delaying and questioning whether there even needs to be another COVID-19 relief package, and what they finally produced is too little, too late. Congress must do more, or the public health and economic consequences will be even more grave.
Without vital financial aid, Californians will likely see major state budget cuts to education, health, and other vital services—in the middle of a pandemic when these resources are needed most. Without more robust support for state and local government, toward unemployment and worker protections, and in Medicaid that millions depend on for health care and jobs, the emergency will only worse.
The current California state budget passed in June is dependent on significant federal aid without which will mean more tough cuts for Californians. This includes a $1.2 billion cut to community clinics and other Medi-Cal services to millions of low-income Californians, particularly harming communities of color who are already disproportionately impacted by the economic and health care crisis. We fear that without necessary federal aid, or revenue increases from the state, additional budget cuts that were proposed but initially rejected, such as denying coverage to low-income seniors, or eliminating key Medi-Cal benefits, will be back on the table.
IMPACT ON CALIFORNIANS WITHOUT COVERAGE
The Senate Republican proposal does nothing to keep consumers covered in the middle of a public health emergency. California is projected to have the largest increase in the number of uninsured due to COVID-19, and potentially 689,000 Californians will, without help, live sicker, die younger, and be one emergency from financial ruin. Whether through aid to better afford COBRA, Covered California or other state exchanges, or other public programs like Medicaid and Medicare, we need to better help consumers get connected to coverage.
Health Access California’s website has a fact sheet and a scorecard of the state budget cuts proposed, made, and scheduled in health care.
Health Access California recently joined with 74 state organizations on a letter to Senate and Congressional leaders outlining the specific proposals needed to respond appropriately to California’s recent unprecedented surge in COVID-19 cases and deaths as well as the dire health and economic impacts of the current pandemic on all Californians and the diverse communities of our state. You can read the letter here.