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We are just a few weeks away from the start of the fall school semester, and as a mom of two young, school-aged children, I am extremely concerned about what to expect as schools try to reopen amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
It’s not just my family’s health I’m worried about, but also the health of the teachers and staff who shouldn’t have to put their families or themselves in danger just to do their jobs. Yet, the alternative, continuing remote learning and all the difficulties for both educators and students that come with it, is not a viable solution for my kids.
I’m not downplaying the health risks. I’m on an immunosuppressant, a drug that reduces my immune system’s response, so my family knows how much of a risk returning to school could be. But the status quo isn’t working.
My kids are 9 and 7 years old. One has a learning disability, and the other is deaf. They are both on Individualized Education Programs, and even as a stay-at-home mom, I am simply not equipped to teach them.
I know I’m not alone in these struggles. Parents, especially moms, need more support. And Congress can provide it.
With the clocking ticking before essential unemployment benefits run out and our kids are set to return to school, Congress must pass another relief package that focuses on helping working families, students and teachers. Right now, states, localities and territories are facing huge budget shortfalls, and our public schools have been underfunded for decades. Without more immediate federal aid, neither schools nor child care centers can open safely.
Working families like mine also need relief. My husband is an essential worker, but his hours were recently cut significantly. We’re doing everything we can to make ends meet. Thankfully, we were approved for food stamps. I don’t know how we’d feed our kids without them, and at the end of July, far too many Americans are about to be back in that same position, with no way to pay the bills, when the unemployment insurance expansion from the CARES Act expires. Without that additional help, many people won’t be able to pay rent or put food on the table.
I worry that leaders like Mitch McConnell are more focused on protecting big companies from liability suits than helping the families, including mine, who have lost income due to the economic uncertainty. That’s like giving extra life-jackets to people who are dry in the boat while the rest of us are barely keeping our heads above water.
Congress must pass another relief bill and prevent additional needless suffering, and they need to do it now, not put it off until next year. The next package should include paid family and medical leave, enhanced unemployment insurance, child care funding and funding for nutrition programs for if and when the school plans shift. We also need to expand the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit that parents and working people can receive when they file their 2020 taxes.
In addition to a short-term expansion and increase in these pro-family anti-poverty programs, like that seen in the House-passed HEROES Act, we also need to keep in mind that most economists believe the economic fall out of this pandemic will be felt far into 2021.
Right now, schools don’t have what they need to reopen safely. Working people have already stretched what little, if any, saving they might have had to the brink. In this time full of uncertainty, families like mine, moms like me, need a life jacket. Congress has the power to provide it, but our elected officials must prioritize their constituents over big donors and corporations. The future of my family, the future of children everywhere, depends on it.
Kim Neally is a stay-at-home mom of two in Bangor and a member of MomsRising.