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California Advocates Decry Paucity of Senate GOP Relief Package; Call for Additional Relief to Address Disparate Impacts of COVID-19

For Immediate Release 
July 28, 2020 
Contact: Monika Lee (858) 353-7271 

Sacramento, CA – Advocates for an equitable response to COVID-19 expressed disappointment yesterday over the Senate GOP’s COVID-19 relief package which slashes unemployment benefits while failing to include much needed aid to state and local governments, a move likely to result in major cuts to health care and other safety-net services on which millions of Californians rely.  

“The lack of adequate COVID-19 relief is reckless and will result in thousands of unnecessary illnesses and deaths in California, particularly to seniors and communities of color who are hardest hit by COVID-19,” said Kiran Savage-Sangwan, Executive Director of the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network. “We need our federal leaders to do more,” she added.  

CPEHN, along with 74 organizations, sent a letter yesterday to Senator Feinstein, Senator Harris, Speaker Pelosi and Minority Leader McCarthy urging them to pass a comprehensive federal COVID-19 stimulus package that builds off of the $3 trillion in COVID-19 relief included in the House passed HEROES Act. This is especially urgent now as the state experiences a devastating resurgence of COVID-19, with hospitalizations rising 28%, including a 20% percent increase in patients requiring intensive care. Report after report shows Black people, Latino/Latinx, Indigenous people, and Asian American Pacific Islander people are hardest hit by COVID-19. The impacts go well beyond the virus itself, as these groups also face the worst economic and mental health toll.  

“Our state budget, which was passed in June, preserved funding for Medi-Cal eligibility and benefits including mental and oral health services which are so critical during this pandemic,” Savage-Sangwan said. “The budget also included funds for enrollment assistance for millions of low-income Californians currently without health care coverage. Without federal aid or additional state revenues, California will be forced to make additional budget cuts which will disproportionately harm communities of color who are hardest hit by this pandemic due to years of structural racism and inequality,” she added. 

“Even before the second shutdown, Californians had significant need for additional state aid, help with health care costs and coverage, and much more,” said Anthony Wright, Executive Director of Health Access. “With over 8,000 deaths due to COVID-19, and six million unemployment claims filed, Californians desperately need help at the scale of what the House passed, if not more. The Senate Republicans spent weeks delaying and questioning whether there even needs to be another COVID-19 relief package, and what they finally produced is too little, too late. Congress must do more, or the public health and economic consequences will be even more grave,” he said. 

H.R. 6800, the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act, approved by Speaker Pelosi and the U.S. House of Representatives in May protects families’ health insurance coverage and benefits including access to oral and mental health care services and allows California to invest adequately in its public health response to COVID-19.  

“We need to invest adequately in our state’s public health response. Wait times for testing continue to increase, and contact tracing continues to fall short, or in some cases stop all together,” Savage-Sangwan said. “With the state’s COVID-19 positivity numbers rising again, we urgently need federal aid and resources to ensure we have enough supplies and test sites as well as contact tracers located within California’s diverse communities to keep up with demand and to continue tracking racial and ethnic data,” she added. 

“The Senate Republican proposal does nothing to keep consumers covered in the middle of a public health emergency. California is projected to have the largest increase in the number of uninsured due to COVID-19, and potentially 689,000 Californians will, without help, live sicker, die younger, and be one emergency from financial ruin. Whether through aid to better afford COBRA, Covered California or other state exchanges, or other public programs like Medicaid and Medicare, we need to better help consumers get connected to coverage,” Wright said. 

The letter is signed by 74 organizations that represent real Californians: seniors, frontline workers, children and families, LGBTQ+, persons with disabilities, immigrants and communities of color and calls for additional fiscal relief including enhanced funds for Medicaid and Indian Health Services, mental health and substance use services, and funds to support California’s public health infrastructure so that the state’s containment, mitigation and recovery strategies address these inequities and respond to the needs of all Californians during this time. “Enough is enough,” said Savage-Sangwan. “The HEROES Act was approved in May. California’s Congressional leaders must come together to pass a stimulus package that addresses these priorities now!” 

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