As the coronavirus pandemic forces hundreds of business, restaurants, bars and more across the United States to close their doors, an estimated 18 percent of U.S. workers have been left without a job or with slashed hours. Those numbers came in a new survey carried out by NPR, PBS NewsHour, and Marsist on Friday and Saturday, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Tallying 865 working adults in the United States, 18 percent reported that they had already been laid off or had their hours cut as a direct result of the coronavirus. Of those, those who earn less than $50,000 hit harder than those earning $50,000 or more. According to that same poll, 56 percent of Americans said that the coronavirus outbreak is a "real threat," with 38 percent believing that it has been "blown out of proportion."
Across the country, the workforce has taken a heavy blow as President Donald Trump, medical professionals and other experts urge Americans to practice social distancing to help slow the spread of the coronavirus, which has already proven deadly. In response, a number of facilities have closed, leaving many employees with cut hours and scrambling to meet ends meet, many applying for unemployment.
According to Politico, 15,000 people applied for unemployment benefits in New Jersey on Monday alone, "a twelvefold increase over normal levels." In Connecticut, nearly 8,000 people applied over the weekend, with Rhode Island officials on Tuesday reporting a five-day rise in claims, and in Ohio, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services told Sen. Rob Portman that the state reported a nearly sevenfold increase, with more than 45,000 workers applying for unemployment.
The numbers come as Bloomberg reports that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told Republican lawmakers Tuesday that the unemployment rate could reach 20 percent, which would be double the highest rate during the 2008 recession. At the same time, he proposed an economic stimulus of at least $1 trillion.
"During the meeting with Senate Republicans today, Secretary Mnuchin used several mathematical examples for illustrative purposes, but he never implied this would be the case," Treasury Department spokeswoman Monica Crowley said.
Currently, the Trump administration is discussing sending direct payments to Americans. The exact number of those payments remains unclear, though it could be as much as $1,000 or more. Bloomberg News reports that Munchin suggested having $250 billion of those checks sent out in late April, with a second round of checks totaling $500 billion sent four weeks later if the country is still under a national emergency.