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Ohio community leaders beg Senators for more pandemic assistance

Published: Feb. 18, 2021 at 3:57 PM EST
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - Two Ohio community leaders tell Congress federal coronavirus recovery is falling short, failing their communities and the country.

Jyoshu Tsushima with the Legal Aid Society of Columbus spends most days in housing court, fighting to keep his impoverished clients from losing their homes. Thursday, he sought to convince senators that they need to do more to protect Americans from the financial fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Every morning is chaotic and so many tenants fall through the cracks, leaving court knowing they have to move their families elsewhere, in the dead of winter, in the middle of a pandemic,” he wrote in prepared remarks, adding, “none of my clients chose their race, or to be poor, or to die more easily from COVID, the rest of us however have a choice in either taking action, or in being bystanders to the consequences of this pandemic.”

Data from the U.S. Census Bureau suggest more than half-a-million Ohioans could face eviction. Tsushima argues the national eviction moratorium isn’t providing nearly enough legal protection and minorities are disproportionately squeezed.

“They are not hanging by a thread,” he said of those who cannot afford their rent or basic necessities, “they are constantly waiting for one to be thrown down to save them.”

Ohio Mayor Jamael ‘Tito’ Brown (D-Youngstown) said a national rescue effort must focus on public health, housing, transportation, and small business. “The needs of the City of Youngstown are no different from other communities across the nation,” he said, “we need immediate relief during these difficult times.”

Brown said the city’s, struggle with the pandemic is compounded by its history, having never fully-recovered from the breakdown of the local steel industry nearly half-a-century ago.

“COVID has been an extraordinary crisis, no question about it,” said Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Penn.) But he and most of his Republican colleagues note that Congress already invested trillions, and the national economy is strengthening.

Toomey argues the president’s $1.9-trillion Covid relief proposal is too costly and extends well beyond need.

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) presided over the hearing. Afterwards, he brushed aside cost concerns raised by Republicans. “We’ve got to win against this virus. Whatever it takes, and we’ve got to get this economy back whatever it takes. If we don’t, what we give the next generation, we should be ashamed of,” he said.

Unlike with previous relief bills, Democrats are preparing to push the current proposal through without banking on any support from the other side. Extra unemployment assistance passed in an earlier relief package expires in mid-March. Democrats are targeting that date for green-lighting the next round of emergency funding.

While the federal debt exceeds $20-trillion lawmakers can keep spending. Most states are required to balance their budget – Congress is not.

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