By Ramona du Houx

Tens of thousands of Mainers have lost jobs, fallen behind on rent and struggle to put food on the table. More help from the federal government is obviously needed. States have to balance yearly books, only the federal government can print money.

Millions of people across the country — including tens of thousands of Mainers — are suffering as a result of COVID-19 and the recession it caused, according to a new report published on June 21, 2020 by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

The report comes as Congress negotiates a new round of pandemic relief measures, with Senate Republicans poised to propose a package that falls far short of meeting the needs of families, communities and states.

“Emerging data makes clear that we’re far from recovered. Congress must do more to avoid making a bad situation worse. Relief measures such as increased unemployment and SNAP benefits have proven effective at helping families and boosting our economy, but they are slated to expire soon if Congress fails to act,” said Maine Center for Economic Policy (MECEP) Executive Director Garrett Martin.

“Our leaders in Washington must ensure that Mainers can pay rent, put food on the table, and meet other basic needs. That will keep money flowing through our communities and economy as we work to limit the spread of COVID-19 and rebuild. Congressional failure to pass a COVID-19 relief package that meets the magnitude of this moment would be a travesty for all Mainers and would prolong the crisis.”

Unemployment continues to smash pre-pandemic records, the number of people struggling to get enough to eat has increased dramatically since the pandemic began, and a huge number of Americans are falling behind on rent, the report states. Hardship is widespread, but is particularly prevalent among Black, Latinx, Indigenous, and immigrant households.

The report includes the following findings about hardship faced by Mainers:

  • Hunger: 98,000 Mainers (9 percent) do not have enough to eat. Among households with children the figures are even worse, with 13 percent of households with kids (36,000 households) saying they could not afford enough food to keep their children adequately fed.

  • Housing: 29,000 Maine adults (14 percent) did not pay the previous month’s rent on time, or deferred payment.

  • Jobs: 90,000 Mainers claimed jobless benefits in the week ending June 27. Maine’s April-June average unemployment rate was 8.8 percent.

“As Congress begins considering a new relief package, likely the last before the election, emerging data show that a large and growing number of households are struggling to afford food and that millions of households are behind on rent, raising the specter that evictions could begin to spike as various federal, state, and local moratoriums are lifted,” wrote the report’s authors, Sharon Parrott, Arloc Sherman, Joseph Llobrera, Alicia Mazzara, Jennifer Beltrán and Michael Leachman. “The next package should both extend the relief measures that are working but are slated to end well before the crisis abates and address the shortcomings and missing elements in the relief efforts to date.”

 

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