OPINION: New Federal Stimulus Package Isn’t Enough to Support Our Communities

by Liz Olson and Emily Vyhnanek, Washington State Budget & Policy Center

(This was originally published as a statement by the Washington State Budget & Policy Center.) 

Last week, Congress approved a $484 billion relief bill, the fourth federal package since the start of the COVID- 19 crisis. While hospitals and small businesses need every dollar provided by this legislation, the package provides no funding for states and doesn’t do enough to deliver the full relief Washington communities urgently need. 

Since the passage of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act — the last federal stimulus bill — in late March, an additional 300,000 Washingtonians have filed for unemployment and tens of thousands have applied for critical supports like our state’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. And state revenue shortfalls are expected to climb.

The new federal bill delivers aid to hospitals, bolsters virus testing, and replenishes relief for small businesses. New oversight measures are intended to ensure that funds actually reach child care centers, barbershops, local restaurants, and other small businesses that power our local economies — not big corporations. This investment will increase our capacity to treat sick people and help small businesses stay afloat.

However, the latest package doesn’t meet the level of need we’re seeing as unemployment claims and applications for food and cash assistance continue to soar. Specifically:

  • No additional state fiscal relief is included. Washington State is likely to face steep losses in tax revenue in the coming months and years. Without substantial additional aid to state and local governments, Washington State’s budget shortfalls could dwarf the $12 billion revenue loss we experienced during the Great Recession.
  • It fails to boost vital programs like SNAP and TANF. This new stimulus doesn’t increase assistance for households struggling to put food on the table and meet other basic needs. Expansions to these programs must be prioritized in future relief efforts.
  • Undocumented communities remain excluded from critical support. The exclusion of undocumented immigrants and Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN) tax filers from accessing unemployment insurance and stimulus benefits means hundreds of thousands of people in Washington will struggle to weather the current crisis.

It is fantastic that community members and leaders across our state are working quickly to support undocumented communities with financial relief, but future federal relief efforts must still address this exclusion. States like Washington must take additional measures to provide cash assistance to undocumented people and others left out of this stimulus.

We know the impacts of this crisis will extend far into the future. Bold solutions in the short term and long term are needed. Federal and state leaders must take action to ensure that relief reaches communities most in need. Our recovery and collective well-being depend on it.

Liz Olson is a policy analyst and Emily Vyhnanek is the Working Families Tax Credit campaign manager at the Washington State Budget & Policy Center, an organization that works to advance the economic well-being of people in Washington.