Budget reconciliation is a path to some additional COVID relief, but there's more work to do.

February 3, 2021
by Dorothy Monza, Advocacy Associate

Status of COVID-19 Relief

It has been over a year since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a public health emergency of international concern, the highest level of alarm under international law. Over the past twelve months there have been over 100 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 globally and close to 2.5 million people have died (as of February 2, 2021 at 3:00 pm ET), including over 400,000 people in the United States.

Meanwhile, millions of people face increased economic insecurity due to the secondary impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The World Bank estimates over 150 million people will be pushed into extreme poverty due to the pandemic, and in the U.S. 1 in 5 renters are not caught up on rent. Although the U.S. has passed some legislation to address the pandemic and the resulting economic crisis, the response has been inadequate to the scale of the need and funding for global pandemic response has been astoundingly low. It is crucial that more resources are dedicated to addressing the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly to mitigate the secondary impacts and economic shocks that deepen poverty, both in the U.S. and globally.

What’s budget reconciliation?

The political landscape for COVID-19 relief has changed now that the 117th Congress has been sworn-in and Democrats control the House, Senate, and White House. Democrats in Congress are moving forward with a budget resolution this week that includes “budget reconciliation” instructions. Budget reconciliation is a legislative process Congress may use for spending and revenue matters. The advantage of this process is that the legislation needs only a simple majority in the House and Senate to pass. Both parties have used this process to pass legislation when it was doubtful they could get 60 votes to overcome the Senate filibuster. Most recently, Republicans used reconciliation in 2017 for the attempted repeal of the Affordable Care Act and to pass the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.   

While President Biden is holding out hope for a bipartisan COVID-19 relief bill, it is unlikely he can muster the ten Republican senate votes needed to pass a bill that meets the needs of those struggling most in this pandemic.  

Congress is moving fast. House and Senate budget resolutions  will likely pass this week. Committees could begin drafting up the contents of the new COVID-19 bill as early as next week and must report legislation consistent with budgetary targets to the Budget Committees by February 16. The House Financial Services Committee has allocated $75 billion for COVID-19 relief and the Senate Banking Committee $89 billion (programs under their jurisdiction are different). Based on those numbers (which won’t change), rent relief in the bill is not likely to exceed the $30 billion requested by President Biden. The House Foreign Affairs Committee has allocated $10 billion for global pandemic relief. This is wholly inadequate to address the need in partner countries, where vaccines may not be available for months or years, and up to two-thirds of AIDS, TB, and malaria programs have reported service disruptions due to COVID-19.

Passing another relief package is a step in the right direction, the amounts in the proposed budget reconciliation do not go far enough. More advocacy is needed to ensure that the U.S. provides COVID-19 relief on a scale that meets the tremendous need that exists in the U.S. and in partner countries.

Committee Amount in budget resolution RESULTS issues under this committee RESULTS request
House Financial Services* $75 billion Emergency Rental and Utility Assistance No less than $30 billion
Senate Banking* $89 billion Emergency Rental and Utility Assistance No less than $30 billion
House Foreign Affairs/Senate Foreign Relations** $10 billion Global Health, including the Global Fund and anti-hunger/nutrition No less than $4 billion for the Global Fund and at least $2 billion for anti-hunger programs

* House Financial Services/Senate Banking have different programs under their jurisdiction, which is why their top lines vary. Both committees are responsible for emergency rental and utility assistance in the COVID-19 relief bill.

**Appropriators on State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee of Appropriations in the House and Senate will likely be involved in the process.

How does this affect our advocacy?

Although Congress is moving quickly on a reconciliation bill, it does not go nearly far enough—more relief is urgently required. RESULTS will continue to advocate for policies and programs that address the acute needs caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly for individuals who are living in poverty or otherwise pushed to the margins, who face the greatest risks.

For global poverty programs RESULTS requests:

  • At least $20 billion in additional global relief, including at least $4 billion for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, and at least $2 billion for anti-hunger and malnutrition efforts. This money would go toward mitigating the secondary impacts of COVID-19 in low-income communities.

For U.S. poverty programs RESULTS requests that Congress:

  • Allocate at least $30 billion for emergency rental assistance in the next COVID-19 relief bill.
  • Pursue bold-large scale policies focused on our underlying housing crisis that address the disproportionate impact of systemic housing inequalities for Black renters and other communities of color
  • Make the Child Tax Credit a monthly payment that is larger and fully accessible to low-income families, and expand the EITC for younger workers and others without dependents (as proposed by the Biden Administration)

Use your voice. Take action now.

Decisions on budget reconciliation spending are happening NOW and your advocacy can make a difference. Contact Senate and House aides now urging them to ask their bosses to support the provisions listed above to relevant committee leadership. Reach out to those aides you have worked with in the past on these issues (you can find their names through our Legislator Lookup Tool) or contact offices through our Online Action Center. If you have a meeting with aides or want to share Leave Behinds with RESULTS policy asks, there are up-to-date resources on our Lobbying Page.

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