NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, a Republican representing Louisiana in the Congress, has his own ideas about how much money Americans should receive as part of a new COVID-19 stimulus package. Meanwhile, a vocal housing advocate says angst is building after the $600 per week temporary federal stipend for the unemployed ended along with a federal moratorium on evictions.
Andreanecia Morris is Executive Director of HousingNOLA, a housing advocacy organization.
“We’re getting these phone calls, we’re seeing folks, people are emailing, they’re desperate so we have housing in our name, so why not try us,” said Morris.
Morris says it is critical that Congress reimplement the $600 weekly stipend.
“It’s been helping some people and keeping some folks off the ledge,” she said.
Cassidy says he favors something different in terms of the jobless benefit from the federal government amid the pandemic.
“The unemployment program that I have supported would give workers 70 to 75 percent of their wages. This would help meaningfully those who are without jobs but also not pay people more not to work than to work depending upon your state,” said Cassidy.
Cassidy is also proposing legislation to reduce pandemic-related stimulus checks for Adult Americans and increasing it for children.
“Under the CARES Act a single parent with two children received $1,200 for the parent and $500 for each child. $2,200 total. Under the plan I’m advocating the same family gets $3,000,” said Cassidy.
Cassidy said he co-introduced the Coronavirus Assistance for American Families Act. Under the proposal individual adults who are American citizens would get $1,000, that amount is down from the $1,200 Congress provided them in the Spring. But the allocation to children would double from $500 to $1,000.
“We would president, Mr. President you want to give a stimulus check, give a thousand dollars to every American below a certain income level including children and adult dependents. By the way, college students got totally left out of the CARES 3.0 Act, so this would also address that oversight, if you will,” said Cassidy. “When I listen to people back home what I hear is the folks with the most pain are the ones with young children.”
President Donald Trump has threatened to halt evictions and implement a payroll tax cut through executive action if Congress fails to reach a deal on a new stimulus package soon.
Cassidy responded to the prospect of the president taking such unilateral action.
“Now, I don’t know if he can do that by executive order, let me just say that, but on those two specific policy points I do think it’s something that would be better considered in legislation than done by executive order,” said Cassidy.
Morris thinks the president would do better to encourage Congress to approve other legislation already introduced on Capitol Hill that would provide housing assistance.
“This is simple: there are four bills in both houses of Congress that directly address housing. This president only needs to signal to Senate Republicans that he is in favor of one of them,” said Morris. “Like right here in Louisiana we need about a billion to keep all renters who have been affected by the coronavirus housed through July of 2021.”
Morris says with the cost of housing in New Orleans being what it is more and not less should be done to help people keep a roof over their heads."
“People start talking about unemployment as if this was goo-gobs of money to help people pay their bills that shows and demonstrate a complete disconnection from how much housing costs are in New Orleans,” said Morris. “We released a report a week and a half ago that said you need to earn over $21 an hour to afford a two-bedroom apartment in New Orleans.”
Cassidy suggested it is worth delving into whether the federal aid is meeting the needs of struggling families.
“We really need to assess if we’re going to give enhanced unemployment and if we’re going to give a stimulus check is that adequate for the family to pay their bills,” said Cassidy.
Cassidy also went on the Senate floor on Tuesday (Aug. 4) to fight for his proposed Smart Fund Act that would allocate $500 billion to help state and local governments who have seen their tax revenue disappear due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“I think if we shut down back home because the federal government asked us to and now we can’t pay our policemen we should help refill that tank to support those basic, we need them police officers, fire fighters etc.,” said Cassidy about the need for the help.