Schumer credits Ossoff, Warnock wins with paving way for bigger COVID-19 relief package

Georgia senators hope new funding entices state to expand Medicaid

WASHINGTON — Democrats are able to go big and bold on this latest round of coronavirus relief because of Georgia voters, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Thursday.

Standing alongside Georgia’s new senators, Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, Schumer credited their victories with flipping power in the U.S. Senate and allowing Democrats to draft a relief package that fits their vision without needing a single Republican vote to become law.

The package is still being drafted but is expected to include a provision designed to encourage leaders in conservative states to expand Medicaid and reduce the number of uninsured residents. Republican leaders in Georgia currently have final say over who is eligible for Medicaid, but the state stands to receive $2 billion in federal funding if they agree to add hundreds of thousands of low-income residents to the rolls.

“I want to emphasize that point because many of us have been fighting for the expansion of Medicaid for years,” Warnock said. “Folks here in the Congress had been trying to get states like Georgia to expand Medicaid. I literally got arrested in an act of civil disobedience trying to get our state to do the right thing.”

He and Ossoff campaigned heavily on health care issues, including Medicaid expansion and a desire to secure another round of COVID-19 stimulus checks for Georgians. Ossoff said they will come through.

“Senator Reverend Warnock and I were sent here to fight for COVID relief for the people of our state who have had to face extraordinary child care costs as schools have been closed, who have had huge medical bills during this health crisis, who have seen loss of employment and severe financial distress,” he said.

Schumer said Americans should be thankful that Georgia voters elected Ossoff and Warnock, which he said has reshaped the discussions surrounding the latest round of COVID-19 relief and allowed Democrats to push for more funding in a variety of areas.

“Thanks to Sens. Warnock and Ossoff, this COVID bill will be bigger and bolder and bring significantly more help to Georgians and to Americans,” Schumer said. “And right now, Democrats are on the path to secure another round of direct payments and expansion of the child tax credit and the earned income tax credit.”

The stimulus and tax credits included in the most recent version of the proposal, which still needs to be approved in both chambers before heading to President Joe Biden’s desk, could result in $8,200 in payment to a sample family of four with a total annual income of $75,000.

The relief package is also expected to include dollars for state and local governments to expand vaccine distribution and testing, funding for historically Black colleges and universities and other minority institutions, and debt relief for Black farmers.

The Medicaid expansion provision would increase the money the federal government reimburses states for providing new coverage for nonelderly adults. The federal government will increase its reimbursement rate to those states by 5 percentage points.

Georgia is among 12 states that have not expanded Medicaid, a key provision in the 2010 Affordable Care Act. The Kaiser Family Foundation said that expansion would reduce the number of uninsured nonelderly Georgians by 452,600 people, or 39%.