Help the people

11/19/2020, 6 p.m.
We call on the U.S. Senate to act now to pass a second COVID-19 relief package to help the millions ...

We call on the U.S. Senate to act now to pass a second COVID-19 relief package to help the millions of people in this country facing dire economic straits because of the pandemic.

A $3 trillion stimulus package known as the HEROES Act was approved by the U.S. House of Representatives in May and would piggyback on the $2.2 trillion CARES Act aid package that provided one-time $1,200 cash payments to most adults and bolstered state unemployment payments to the jobless with an additional $600 per week stipend.

The CARES Act money also assisted businesses with loans and grants to help them weather the initial crisis of the pandemic and funneled billions to state and local governments. Locally, that money has helped area school systems, provided mortgage and rental assistance to families to prevent eviction and supplied testing and personal protective equipment to frontline workers and people in the community.

The dollars have helped families and our communities tremendously, but the pandemic isn’t over. In fact, the number of people infected and hospitalized continues to rise, along with the death rate.

Food lines continue to grow in communities across the nation. People still are in desperate need of help.

Roughly 30 million people remain unemployed, or are working less than they would like, according to the latest statistics.

But under the terms of the CARES Act, Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation and full funding for Extended Benefits will end on Dec. 26. (In Virginia, the last payable week for Extended Benefits will be the week ending Nov. 21, according to a notice from the Virginia Employment Commission.) More than 12 million people will be cut off from this “last economic lifeline,” according to a report this week by the nonprofit Century Foundation. That includes nearly 200,000 Virginians, according to the report.

The HEROES Act would provide additional $1,200 stimulus checks to individuals, extend unemployment benefits, expand food assistance and utility payment assistance to people, provide more targeted assistance to small and minority-owned businesses and funnel additional money to state and local governments for COVID-19 relief.

We cannot wait for a caped crusader or other hero to fly in and save the day. It’s up to the U.S. Senate to take action — and to act now before families are hurt.