Congress, Texas, Celia Cole discussed on 90.3 KAZU Programming

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Effects of that pandemic relief package soon. Lot of what's in there is an extension of the original relief Congress passed back in March. People can get jobless benefits for longer will get federal help on top of what their state gives them, and there are more loans and they're for small businesses. But as marketplaces Samantha Fields reports, some of the original protections have already run out when Congress passed that new $900 billion covert release bill just before Christmas. One thing it did not do was extend the requirement that many employers offer paid sick days for people who get Cove ID. Tony Goldman at the Center for Law and Social Policy, says that will have public health consequences. We're at a moment when the country is experiencing over 200,000 new cases a day of the virus, and this is a program that one study found. Reduced coded by 15,000 cases. A day before Congress passed the emergency sick time mandate in March. Goldman says more than 30 Million workers in the U. S did not even have a single paid sick day. Most of them are in low wage, high risk jobs in grocery stores and restaurants. So these are workers who may face the choice where they cannot stay home even if they are sick with Cove ID because they would lose income that they need to pay for rent to pay for groceries along with paid sick time. Congress also let paid family leave benefits expire as of today. Those gave parents up to 12 weeks of paid time off to take care of their kids. If they're school or daycare, closed because of co vid Vicki Shabo is with the think tank New America. That means that in some families, parents may need to make choices about whether to keep their job or whether to provide care for their Children and disproportionately. We know that it's women who have taken a step back during this pandemic. Even with the 12 weeks of paid leave in place, and Shay Bo says the elimination. The expiration of these provisions on Lee make that outcome more likely. Employers can still choose to offer paid sick and family leave, and if they do, they can still claim a tax credit. But Ruth Milkman, a labor sociologist at the City University of New York, says without a mandate, I suspect that most of them will only do it for the workers that they considered to be the most valuable that, like in the past professionals and managers, which means the people who need the benefits, the most, she says, will once again be the least likely to get them. I'm Samantha Fields for marketplace. So here's a really sobering fact. According to experts, more Americans are going hungry right now, then. At any point since the census started keeping track in the late nineties. The pandemic relief package that we keep talking about. It does set aside new money billions of dollars for food stamp benefits and food banks. But the need like I said, unlike anything we've seen before. We're gonna take a close look now at Texas food banks there have been scrambling to feed people. They're getting double the number of families they did last year, while at the same time dealing with some pretty heavy budget cuts. From Houston Public Media Elizabeth Trove all has that one. Quinn McGee wakes up early to get ahead of the long line of cars at the local food pantry in southwest Houston on pickup days. It's something to behold, when you leave you looking at families literally. Inside air you seeing all these cars and sight Wow. Mickey, who uses they and them pronounced started getting food there in November. They have a partner and a nine year old son. The family has had gaps and paychecks do tow unemployment and mental health leave. They have struggled to catch up with bills. Vicky's family had never been to a food pantry before the pandemic. Now coming home with groceries is a sigh of relief is literally like a I'm really like, Okay, I can rest easy just a little bit just a little. McGee says. In the grocery bag. There's always fresh fruits and veggies, carrots, potatoes, apples, bananas have gotten strawberries. I've gotten Manda Rand's. You say it's nice to have a healthy alternative to the canned goods that can be high and sodium. But in the new year it's likely that fewer fresh foods will make it into grocery bags like McGee's, thanks to a $2 million cut to a statewide grant program. That translates to a £19 million loss of produce. Celia Cole is CEO of Feeding Texas and Association of the State's 21 food banks that's produce We will not be able To get its produced that will likely go to waste and it's produced that could be nourishing hungry Texans at a time of unprecedented food and security due to the pandemic. Beating Texas estimates it's been serving around 1.8 million families each month during the pandemic. The surplus agricultural products grant program pays for leftover produce from state farmers to be shipped to food banks. The Texas Department of Agriculture cut funding for the program to balance the statewide budget. At the Houston Food Bank. A forklift drives up to unload pallets of fresh mangoes from a truck trailer. Food Bank President Brian Greene says the slashed budget means the organization will receive 100 fewer tractor trailer loads like this over in the next year. He says the program is a critical source of fresh fruits and vegetables. It accounts for about 10% of our total distribution, and that's fairly consistent. I think of the food banks in Texas. And I think in terms of produce, it's about a quarter of the produce that we receive, Green says. If you consider these cuts, along with unprecedented demand and uncertainty around federal USDA funding Food banks are facing a potential food cliff Celia Cole says local food banks still anticipate it delay in the first three months of 2021, which could mean they fall short about £29 million of food each month. Almost every single food bank is projecting a potential gap between the demand in their communities and their ability to meet that demand. That's why Cole says there's an immediate need that this state program could help pay. For now. She says she hopes when the state Legislature convenes in January, it will immediately reverse the budget cut. I'll say I'm cautiously optimistic. I think that the responsible thing to do would be to restore the funding for this fiscal year. Cole says this program has received bipartisan support for nearly 20 years in Houston. I'm Elizabeth pro ball for marketplace. Coming.

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