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MO Groups Urge U.S. Senate to Pass COVID Relief

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Nationwide, more than 1.3 million front-line public service workers have lost their jobs because of budget shortfalls because of the pandemic. (Tatyana A./Adobe Stock)
Nationwide, more than 1.3 million front-line public service workers have lost their jobs because of budget shortfalls because of the pandemic. (Tatyana A./Adobe Stock)
 By Lily Bohlke, Public News Service - MO - Producer, Contact
March 4, 2021

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Missouri families are struggling to get through the pandemic, and advocates for low-income and working people are urging the Senate to pass COVID relief.

Last weekend, the House passed the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, which would provide more than $5.3 million to Missouri to support first responders, front-line public health workers, teachers and transit workers.

It would also extend unemployment benefits and the federal eviction moratorium, increase nutrition, rental and utility assistance, and reinstate and expand emergency paid leave.

Sarah Owsley, policy and organizing manager for Empower Missouri, said it's critical to ensure Missourians basic needs are met.

"The best way to avoid getting sick is to stay home and to wash your hands frequently," Owsley pointed out. "And the ability to do that is connected to being able to have a home and to have running utilities."

Localities in Missouri, along with many other states, have seen revenues plummet as costs have risen to fight the pandemic.

The Missouri Municipal League is one of more than 400 organizations that signed a letter urging the Senate to quickly pass the package.

Owsley argued Missourians need long-term solutions to what's now been a year of job loss and food and housing insecurity for many people, especially Black, Brown and Indigenous residents, low-income people and other vulnerable folks.

"That can include things like freezing eviction records during this time; that can include forgiving utility arrearages for folks during this time, et cetera; really helping people be able to stay to get back on their feet and stay on their feet," Owsley suggested.

The Senate is expected to vote on the American Rescue Plan as soon as Friday.

Many GOP senators say the plan is too costly and includes unnecessary programs, so with 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans in the chamber, Vice President Kamala Harris may have to step in to break a tie.

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