Nonprofit groups tell Congress to get back to work

    Efforts to get people help have stalled in the deadlocked Congress, so increasing numbers are turning to food shelves. Photo by Getty Images.

    A group of Minnesota nonprofits called on federal elected officials Monday to “get back to work” and pass another coronavirus relief package.

    More than 150 nonprofit groups sent a letter to Minnesota’s congressional delegation Aug. 20 saying the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act was vital, but insufficient as the “the situation is worsening.”

    To wit: The number of Minnesotans seeking food assistance through Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as food stamps, has increased 14%. About one in six households are falling behind on rent, and the national unemployment rate is higher than during the Great Recession.

    And the burden is falling heavily on people of color, according to the Minnesota Budget Project.

    More Minnesotans need help with health care, they found, through an increase to federal Medicaid funding.

    They urged passage of the $3 trillion HEROES Act passed by House Democrats in May to help small businesses, offer student loan and tax relief and send Americans stimulus checks. They said the $1.1 trillion HEALS Act proposed by Senate Republicans — with stimulus checks and an extension of the federal unemployment boost — was “inadequate to meet the challenges of this moment and is too small to jumpstart our economy.”

    “The crisis has not stopped doing its thing, but Congress has,” said Marie Ellis, policy director for the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits.

    Brett Grant, director of research and policy for Voices for Racial Justice, said, “At the federal level, it’s almost as if COVID and the recent uprisings have hardened existing ideological and philosophical differences.”

    Liz Kuoppala, executive director of the Mahube-Otwa Community Action Partnership, said that as we head into fall, their clients are becoming increasingly desperate.

    “Is there any end in sight? It seems nobody one is hiring,” Kuoppala said. “The extra unemployment has gone away, but costs have not. Mental health is a real struggle.”