A pair of Kentucky organizations say the recently signed COVID-19 relief package is helpful, but not enough to get many struggling Kentuckians through the remainder of the pandemic.
The bill that President Trump signed on Sunday includes a $600 per person stimulus check, a $300 per week extension on unemployment benefits until March, and extends the eviction moratorium until January 31, 2021.
However, Jason Bailey, the executive director of the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy, doubts the aid will last Kentuckians through the spring and summer.
“The bill that passed provides a short-term lifeline essentially through the winter through a number of ways. Through extended unemployment benefits at 300 dollars a week, continued pandemic unemployment benefits for self-employed workers, food aid, housing aid, and other forms of relief,” Bailey said. “But that’s not enough and it doesn’t last longer enough to get us through the remainder of this crisis.”
According to the Kentucky Center of Economic Policy, one in five Kentucky parents can’t afford to feed their children, and Bluegrass State residents owe more than 500 million dollars in back rent and utilities.
“There needs to be a lot more in terms of aid to family and communities, as well as to state and local governments who have been laying off workers. Kentucky has lost about 21,000 state and local government jobs and will lose more if there’s not additional aid,” Bailey added.
Financial aid from the COVID-19 relief package could be coming at a time when many Kentucky restaurants are straining under the pressure of the pandemic as well. $284 billion in aid to small businesses through paycheck protection program loans is also included in the relief package.
Back in April, the PPP program was essential for many restaurant owners to get through weeks of closers and months of continued restrictions. The program was changed to help more independent restaurants and businesses in low-income communities.
Those who are self-employed will also receive assistance.
Stacy Roof, president and CEO of the Kentucky Restaurant Association, said the new loans could help restaurants get through the difficult winter months.
“I would say especially this year because they didn’t have that holiday sales bump,” she said. “They were closed for three weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas and didn’t have the normal revenue that they would have that really carries them through part of that first quarter.”
Roof told WKU Public Radio that relief is needed, but she isn’t sure when owners would start to receive loans. She said restaurant operators are more optimistic about financial relief now because of vaccine distribution.
But Bailey with Kentucky Center for Economic Policy pointed out that widespread vaccinations may not happen until mid-summer or early fall.
“Even after people are vaccinated, you know we are going to have some problems with putting our economy back together again. You know there are certain behaviors and spending that people did before that they may not do again,” Bailey said.
He says President-elect Biden and Congress need to pass another significant relief package next year that includes aid to state and local governments.