The following statement is from Ida Rademacher, Vice President, Aspen Institute and Executive Director of the Aspen Institute Financial Security Program on Ensuring Proposals for Direct Cash Assistance to Offset the Impact of Coronavirus do not make recipients ineligible for other public assistance.
Contact: Tim Shaw,
Senior Policy Manager, Financial Security Program
The Aspen Institute
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“Our nation is facing an unprecedented public health and economic threat from the COVID-19 virus. As Congress and the White House consider direct cash payments to all Americans to offset the dramatic household financial costs caused by this crisis, the Aspen Institute Financial Security Program urges protecting impacted Americans by ensuring those payments do not cause recipients to lose access to critical safety net benefits.
We need a holistic approach to help households through this difficult period. I am encouraged by the emergence of bipartisan support for expanding access to public benefits and direct cash payments as a way to combat the unavoidable economic pain. Cash provides the liquidity and short-term stability households need to weather the storm, and keep them on track to reach longer-term goals once this crisis has passed.
This policy should help all American households. However, without protections, providing direct cash could harm, rather than help, many vulnerable people and families. Public benefit application and recertification systems often disallow the kind of cash infusion that is now under discussion by making applicants ineligible for assistance. Providing cash payments now is the right step, as long as we ensure that doing so does not trigger so-called “asset tests” or “savings penalties” that prevent enrollment in or require removal from a variety of public benefits such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). This risk is real: in 2019 five states had a $1,000 asset limit for families receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), which means that in those states a cash payment of $1,000 could immediately make the most vulnerable American families ineligible for other critical supports.
Congress and the White House must act preemptively to avoid confusing eligibility requirements and the devastating consequence of providing one type of assistance while taking others away. This is the right moment for the federal government to deliver meaningful cash payments to suffering American workers. As they forge ahead, we urge policymakers to take this opportunity to deliver aid which follows the creed of public health professionals, “first, do no harm.””
The Aspen Institute Financial Security Program’s (Aspen FSP) mission is to illuminate and solve the most critical financial challenges facing American households and to make financial security for all a top national priority. We aim for nothing less than a more inclusive economy with reduced wealth inequality and shared prosperity. Learn more at www.aspeninstitute.org/programs/financial-security-program/
The Aspen Institute is a global nonprofit organization committed to realizing a free, just, and equitable society. Founded in 1949, the Institute drives change through dialogue, leadership, and action to help solve the most important challenges facing the United States and the world. Headquartered in Washington, DC, the Institute has a campus in Aspen, Colorado, and an international network of partners. For more information, visit www.aspeninstitute.org