The fight to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the U.S. Supreme Court is likely to dominate the political debate in Washington in the coming weeks, even as millions of Americans struggle to meet their basic needs without additional federal relief. Stephanie Grace writes for Nola.com | The Advocate that Ginsburg’s death has immediate consequences, regardless of who ultimately fills her seat on the court. A challenge to the Affordable Care Act, co-signed by Attorney General Jeff Landry, is set to be heard in November, and with only eight justices in place the chances are higher that the court will strike the law, throwing America’s health care system into disarray and imperiling coverage for millions.
If the law goes, there’s nothing on the books or even in the works to effectively replace it, at least nothing that honestly reckons with the economics of covering people whose health care is often expensive. … (T)he law’s end would also mean that insurance plans no longer have to cover a list of essential benefits, including everything from preventive care to hospitalization to mental health and substance abuse treatment. … Nor is there much discussion of what would happen to Medicaid expansion, the program that started off strong in states led by Democrats and has now become entrenched in a number of Republican strongholds elsewhere in the country.
A deal on (some) food aid
While the prospects for passing a comprehensive Covid-19 relief package seem to have faded with the summer sun, help is on the way for families with hungry kids. The U.S. House of Representatives moved forward on Tuesday with a deal that extends and expands Pandemic EBT, an important food benefit for children who receive free and reduced-price meals when schools close or reduce their hours due to the pandemic. Mariam Khan and John Parkinson have the story for ABC News:
The deal will add nearly $8 billion to the continuing resolution for food and nutrition assistance programs. And funding for farmers and the agriculture community is also included, at the GOP’s request, with increased accountability measures. “We have reached an agreement with Republicans on the CR to add nearly $8 billion in desperately needed nutrition assistance for hungry schoolchildren and families,” Pelosi said in a statement. “We also increase accountability in the Commodity Credit Corporation, preventing funds for farmers from being misused for a Big Oil bailout.”
Hollowing out government expertise
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service (USDA-ERS) produces essential and objective research on food insecurity, the impacts of the nation’s food assistance programs and how a changing climate affects the nation’s food supply. Recently, their research has cut against the policy preferences of conservative lawmakers. Last year the agency moved the research offices from Washington D.C. to Kansas City, Mo., in a move that Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget, called “a wonderful way to streamline government.” The ERS lost nearly half of its staff as a result of the move, and now vital and objective research that could inform the nation’s efforts to keep people fed during Covid-19 has all but stopped, leaving interest groups to fill in the gaps. The Counter’s Jessica Fu spoke with more than 20 former and current ERS employees about how staff losses at the agency have gutted the government’s expertise on hunger and food production.
In effect, the past year has seen a hollowing out of the brain trust behind America’s food system. Policy makers depend on ERS to make sense of what is and isn’t working about the way we produce, market, and access food—information used to then inform policies that address challenges within the food system, from climate change to the Covid-19 pandemic. Now, as one sustainable farming advocate put it, those steering our food system may as well be “asleep at the wheel.”
Get people their checks
While most people who file tax returns received federal stimulus payments last spring, millions of Americans with incomes too low to require them to file a return have yet to receive a $1,200 stimulus check that would go a long way in these difficult times. Now, a new report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office faults the IRS for doing too little to track down these eligible non-filers. The Washington Post’s Michelle Singletary reports on steps the IRS is taking to reach people eligible for the check, and how non-filers can claim their payments:
People who don’t normally file a tax return have until Oct. 15 to use the non-filers tool at irs.gov if they want to get up to $1,200 in aid for individuals and $2,400 for married couples by the end of the year. Many might also be entitled to an additional $500 payment for each dependent child who was under 17 at the end of 2019. You don’t need earned income or a job to qualify for a stimulus payment, also known as an Economic Impact Payment (EIP).
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Number of the Day
$115,000 – Amount of the $5.6 million in state rental assistance projected to go to New Orleans that has actually been distributed to landlords, two months after the program opened. Applications for assistance closed three days after opening, exhausted by overwhelming demand. (Source: The Lens)