How 535,000 Covid Deaths Spurred Political Awakenings Across America

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How 535,000 Covid Deaths Spurred Political Awakenings Across America

Another organization, Marked by Covid — co-founded by Kristin Urquiza, who lost her father to the virus and spoke at the Democratic National Convention — has pushed local and federal officials to establish an annual Covid memorial day, and recently released a sweeping policy platform. (Many members, who have regular advocacy trainings, also push for policies separate from the platform.) Among other things, it calls for a “public health job force” of a million people to perform tasks like contact tracing, a restitution program similar to the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, and a commission to examine the government’s pandemic response.

The platform from Marked by Covid — which is nonpartisan and has an advisory board of people affected by the virus, mostly women of color — also includes much more contentious proposals, like a federal jobs guarantee, universal health care and child care, medical and student debt cancellation, and a ban on importation of products linked to deforestation. Ms. Urquiza said the idea was to address factors that make pandemics more likely, and to make Americans economically secure enough to weather crises.

Frequently Asked Questions About the New Stimulus Package

The stimulus payments would be $1,400 for most recipients. Those who are eligible would also receive an identical payment for each of their children. To qualify for the full $1,400, a single person would need an adjusted gross income of $75,000 or below. For heads of household, adjusted gross income would need to be $112,500 or below, and for married couples filing jointly that number would need to be $150,000 or below. To be eligible for a payment, a person must have a Social Security number. Read more.

Buying insurance through the government program known as COBRA would temporarily become a lot cheaper. COBRA, for the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, generally lets someone who loses a job buy coverage via the former employer. But it’s expensive: Under normal circumstances, a person may have to pay at least 102 percent of the cost of the premium. Under the relief bill, the government would pay the entire COBRA premium from April 1 through Sept. 30. A person who qualified for new, employer-based health insurance someplace else before Sept. 30 would lose eligibility for the no-cost coverage. And someone who left a job voluntarily would not be eligible, either. Read more

This credit, which helps working families offset the cost of care for children under 13 and other dependents, would be significantly expanded for a single year. More people would be eligible, and many recipients would get a bigger break. The bill would also make the credit fully refundable, which means you could collect the money as a refund even if your tax bill was zero. “That will be helpful to people at the lower end” of the income scale, said Mark Luscombe, principal federal tax analyst at Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting. Read more.

There would be a big one for people who already have debt. You wouldn’t have to pay income taxes on forgiven debt if you qualify for loan forgiveness or cancellation — for example, if you’ve been in an income-driven repayment plan for the requisite number of years, if your school defrauded you or if Congress or the president wipes away $10,000 of debt for large numbers of people. This would be the case for debt forgiven between Jan. 1, 2021, and the end of 2025. Read more.

The bill would provide billions of dollars in rental and utility assistance to people who are struggling and in danger of being evicted from their homes. About $27 billion would go toward emergency rental assistance. The vast majority of it would replenish the so-called Coronavirus Relief Fund, created by the CARES Act and distributed through state, local and tribal governments, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. That’s on top of the $25 billion in assistance provided by the relief package passed in December. To receive financial assistance — which could be used for rent, utilities and other housing expenses — households would have to meet several conditions. Household income could not exceed 80 percent of the area median income, at least one household member must be at risk of homelessness or housing instability, and individuals would have to qualify for unemployment benefits or have experienced financial hardship (directly or indirectly) because of the pandemic. Assistance could be provided for up to 18 months, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. Lower-income families that have been unemployed for three months or more would be given priority for assistance. Read more.

“It’s really not only about ensuring that we are responding to the most urgent pieces that are in front of our face right now,” she said.

Covid Survivors for Change, also nonpartisan, has no official platform, though the members who lobbied Congress did so in support of President Biden’s stimulus package. The group has focused primarily on training survivors.

Several members said the virus had drawn them into the political arena in ways that would have shocked them a year ago.

Janis Clark, 65, said her husband, Ron Clark, had always been the politically active one. “Whenever he’d watch politics, it’d be like, ‘Here comes the half-hour dissertation,’” she said, laughing. “I’d get nervous about P.T.A. functions.”

Mr. Clark died on April 23, after two weeks at home with a fever as high as 104 and more than three weeks on a ventilator. He never learned that his daughter was pregnant.

Source: New York Times

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