WASHINGTON — Last night, Congress passed COVID-19 relief as part of a spending bill critical to averting a government shutdown and funding the federal government through the rest of fiscal year 2021. While woefully insufficient, this bill is a step to support families and communities hard hit by the pandemic. For 220 days, the Senate and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell ignored a serious COVID-19 relief package passed by the House, denying people life-saving relief. Now, more than 316,000 people in the U.S. have died from COVID-19.
Statement from Alexis McGill Johnson, president, Planned Parenthood Action Fund:
“Yesterday’s COVID-19 compromise is a step in the right direction, but it’s still severely inadequate and long overdue. 220 days before Congress passed this bill, the House of Representatives passed the HEROES Act to protect people on the front lines, support families struggling from income loss, and ensure an efficient distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine. It was blocked by Majority Leader McConnell and his Senate majority. Today, millions across our country are suffering, over 316,000 have died, and more than 5.5 million people are unemployed. This crisis is disproportionately impacting Black and Latino communities in the U.S. and magnifying health care inequities globally — the Senate majority’s delay has been appalling.
“This cannot be the end of Congress’ response. We are grateful to Speaker Pelosi and Minority Leader Schumer for their leadership in the long fight to secure this relief. We look forward to working with these health care champions and the incoming Biden-Harris administration, starting on Day One, to get people the full support they need and deserve.”
President-elect Biden has promised to lead an effective, science-based COVID-19 relief plan. Together, the next Congress and the incoming administration must protect people against the physical, emotional, and economic consequences of COVID-19 with comprehensive relief that invests in health care and safety net providers. Reproductive health and freedom are inextricably tied to safety from the pandemic, which has laid bare the crushing racial inequities in our health care system and society.
Encouragingly, yesterday’s package includes a long-overdue, and critical fix to restore Medicaid benefits to Marshall Islanders and other islanders covered by the Compact of Free Association (COFA), who have suffered disproportionately under COVID-19.
But beyond COVID-19 relief, yesterday’s spending bill, which will fund the government through September 30, 2021, sadly includes largely flat funding for both domestic ($286.4 million for Title X) and international family planning programs ($575 million) and for UNFPA ($32.5 million). It fails to include critical language from the House State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations bill to permanently repeal the harmful global gag rule, or language from the House Labor-HHS-Education bill to block the Title X domestic gag rule. The bill also retains the discriminatory Hyde and Helms Amendments, which block federal coverage of most abortion services.
Planned Parenthood Action Fund is ready to work with Congress and the incoming Biden-Harris administration to undo the harms of the past four years, address these issues — including long-underfunded domestic and global health priorities — and advance the health and rights of all communities.
Planned Parenthood Action Fund is an independent, nonpartisan, not-for-profit membership organization formed as the advocacy and political arm of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. The Action Fund engages in educational, advocacy and electoral activity, including grassroots organizing, legislative advocacy, and voter education.