Op-Ed: What Congress has done and must do to help those affected by the COVID-19 crisis

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
Photo courtesy of the office of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

BY CONGRESSWOMAN ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ

Our district is the epicenter of the epicenter. Among the zip codes with the highest number of positive cases, five of the top 10 reside in NY-14.  The neighborhoods of Jackson Heights, Corona, Elmhurst, East Elmhurst have a combined population of about 600,000 and more than 7,260 coronavirus cases. Manhattan, with nearly three times as many people, had about 10,860 cases.

Our community is also disproportionately at risk for the greatest consequences of the virus. Bronx residents are twice as likely to die from COVID-19 than other New York City residents. Latinx people also comprise 34 percent of the COVID-19-related deaths in New York City, the largest share for any racial or ethnic group.

Congress has not yet done nearly enough to address this crisis. I believe our next stimulus must include three critical policies.  First, we must provide recurring monthly payments of $2,000 per individual and $1,000 for dependents. Second, unlike the last stimulus package, immigrants must be given relief. Those with Tax ID numbers should receive stimulus checks, and all immigrants, regardless of status, should be eligible for healthcare programs. Finally, we must expand public plans like Medicare and Medicaid to cover those who lose their insurance when they lose their jobs.

There is some relief currently available. To date, Congress has made COVID-19 testing free; required companies of fewer than 500 people to provide paid sick and family leave; increased funding for food banks and nutrition programs;  granted direct cash assistance for adults with Social Security Numbers earning $99,000 or less; created a new pandemic unemployment insurance program; and provided relief for small businesses.

To learn more about how to apply for any of these programs — and to learn about resources available to immigrant communities — go to my website, ocasio-cortez.house.gov, or call our office, 718-662-5970.  Last week, our office responded to over 400 inquiries.

We know many of you are facing issues applying for unemployment. The state has revamped its website in response. Now, once you apply online, you will receive a call from the state within three days. You no longer have to call the State to complete your application for unemployment insurance.

We also know many of our small businesses are frustrated by the delays with the Paycheck Protection Program.  Congress recently reached a deal with the Trump administration this week to add an additional $300 million to the program. While many of the problems with PPP were not addressed, including a deficit of funding for minority-owned businesses, this should free up lenders to begin distributing loans again.

I’m not one to sugarcoat. Things are very hard, and Congress has not done nearly enough. But I’m also not one to stop fighting.  Just two years ago, I was a bartender. My family lived on the precipice of economic ruin after my father died unexpectedly. I know personally the devastation many of you are facing.  Please know that I will continue to fight every day to get you the relief you deserve.

This story first appeared on QNS.com

More from Around NYC

>