Sunday, December 27, 2020

While Trump dithers on the golf course, a lot of Americans are staring into an abyss

Yesterday was a big deadline for getting a number of CARES-related provisions at extended, which would give needed security for a lot of Americans. I'm sure this greatly concerned our President, and made him burn the midnight oil to make sure his constituents were not left in the lurch. The relief payments that Americans are missing out only a small portion of the damage that is happening while Trump refuses to act. Remember that there are millions of Americans out of work that are not getting an additional $300-per-week through mid-March, which is a loss that could reach $3,300 for tens of millions of people that are likely to need support during a COVID winter.
And see those 14.8 million people in orange and green? Almost all of those people are cut off of unemployment benefits today due to Trump's inaction. That only covers the figures through December 5 (the last week we have for all forms of this data) - it is likely that the numbers are even higher today.

Another key area of assistance that won't happen if Trump doesn't act is a 15% increase in SNAP benefits, which is badly needed as 2020 ends. Trumpian inaction also means that there will not be another round of aid to agribusinesses, including specific help for dairy farmers that was included in the stimulus bill. Worse, the government will shut down if no agreement to fund operations is signed by the end of tomorrow, so no current agriculture assistance either.

If nothing is signed, there are potentially millions of Americans that are in danger of losing their housing by the end of the week, and Wisconsin is not immune to that danger as layoffs accelerate in our part of the country. Another cliff that looms is the ending of the enhanced Federal Medical Assistance Percentages (FMAP), which has allowed the Feds to cover an additional 6.2% of Medicaid costs since March. US HHS Secretary Alex Azar has extended the COVID emergency to January 21, which means the higher FMAP coverage goes until March 31.But if nothing is signed by Trump, it also means there is no extension coming past that date.

With unemployment already high and likely going up in the coming months, it seems likely that Medicaid rolls will remain high by the end of March, which means state governments are going to have to take on more of that burden just as they begin their 2021-23 budget work. Worse, one of the few areas where state and local governments were getting assistance in the stimulus bill was in funding for administering COVID vaccinations and treatment. So are they going to have to take on those costs in the coming weeks?

And perhaps even worse, Americans that are on Medicaid might not have their COVID vaccinations covered, according to the Feds.
...States must cover, under the state plan (or waiver), testing services and treatments for COVID–19, including vaccines, specialized equipment, and therapies, for any quarter in which the temporary increased FMAP is claimed.
So if there is no increased FMAP on March 31, there is no requirement to cover COVID-19 testing, treatments and vaccinations. Governor Evers has asked for the Department of Health Services to cover this, as part of his latest COVID coverage bill, but current Wisconsin law (as laid out in the bill passed in April), only allows free testing through March 13, 2021.

That's a problem, given that a lot of Wisconsinites are not likely to be vaccinated by March 13. Which means that paying for COVID vaccinations, the costs of testing and the costs of distribution (and deciding who pays them) is something that will have to be hammered out at the start of the Biden Presidency.

But the current president has other priorities, and methods of "law-making". As I said last week, maybe we should stop electing politicians who care more about making noises in the media and in making every action based on their personal fee-fees over in making things better for their constituents. Just a thought.

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