We commend Senate lawmakers’ unanimous passage of the $2 trillion coronavirus emergency bill, and even more, for using it to offer relief to America’s struggling families and children. While some of the deal’s elements will meet the most urgent needs of our nation’s children, Congress must quickly enact even more robust measures.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act (H.R.748) sets aside more than $9 billion in food assistance to keep children and families from going hungry. The bill also funds education assistance for kids out of school; community health centers, where 30% of the patients are children; the federal program that helps families pay for utilities; and programs to help support families experiencing homelessness or housing instability.

We applaud the provision of direct cash assistance to children, families and individuals, and the removal of thresholds that will now allow the money to reach the neediest people in our communities. This cash will begin — but only begin — to meet the immediate needs of struggling families for food, rent, gas, utilities and other necessities. The amount of assistance — $1,200 per adult, $500 per child — is inadequate, particularly for children, who are engaged in critical stages of development and whose families are further endangered by lack of family medical leave and other social supports. Lawmakers must move immediately to increase and extend cash assistance, ensure it reaches all children regardless of immigration status, and to create parity in the amounts given to adults and children. 

As more parents lose jobs, more families will become eligible for Medicaid. Congress therefore also must increase the amount of federal assistance to states to help them meet the increased demand. We are also pleased that the package provides additional funding for child care, but as in other areas, more is needed. Health care workers and other essential personnel on the front lines of this pandemic need child care more than ever, and child care workers need support.  

We look forward to the swift passage of this bill by the House, and the swift remedy of its shortcomings in the near future.