It's the middle of July and many Americans are still crying out for the United States Senate to pass another stimulus check — and with good reason. The coronavirus pandemic has the U.S. in disarray, from the economy to public health and everywhere in between. With the policies and impacts of the last stimulus package waning, people have plenty of reason to demand another round of aid from lawmakers.
The coronavirus pandemic is on the rise in the U.S., with new cases, hospitalizations and deaths rising every day. This global tragedy is having ripple effects on the U.S. economy, with businesses either closing preemptively or weathering the virus as long as they can. These circumstances have left millions unemployed while also creating vacuums in various industries where vital services are no longer being offered. All the while, Americans are still expected to pay for housing, food and other essentials.
To combat these effects, the U.S. Congress passed the CARES Act back in March — a $2.1 trillion spending bill that included a stimulus check worth up to $1,200 for individual taxpayers. It also gave huge grants or loans to big corporations, provided protections for small businesses and enhanced unemployment payments so that they could be more sustainable for families.
While many of those efforts were valid, the long-term nature of the pandemic means that some are running out, and they need to be renewed for the U.S. to hang on. Some, such as the enhanced unemployment payments, are set to expire at the end of this month, and recipients are desperate for lawmakers to extend these programs as the virus continues to worsen.
In the spring, some lawmakers proposed even bigger spending packages than the CARES Act, calling for a bigger stimulus check for the American people. Congress ended up passing the HEROES Act, which would have provided a nearly identical stimulus check to the first, but the Senate has not considered the bill. Now, Republican leader Mitch McConnell says that the next stimulus check will be designed by his office, and will likely be worth less than the first.
Whatever the parameters, Americans are becoming desperate for something to buoy them through these unprecedented times. Here is a breakdown of the web of reasons people are calling so urgently for another stimulus check.
The coronavirus pandemic caused a surge in layoffs and unemployment claims back in March as public spaces closed altogether to mitigate the spread of the virus. Now, the statistics are becoming more nuanced, but much analysis shows that they are not getting much better. According to a report by Five Thirty-Eight, the unemployment rate in the U.S. is now beginning to fall slowly, but the number of people out of work permanently is likely on the rise.
The initial wave of coronavirus cases in the U.S. led to furloughs, in many cases, or temporary layoffs with the hope of hiring workers back. In states that have tried to reopen, some people have gone back to work, and many have already gotten sick by doing so. Left to fend for themselves, some businesses have floundered in this fearful climate, and a fluke emergency has turned into a permanent closure.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics is reportedly working hard to clarify these kinds of statistical misrepresentations and gain a clearer picture of the U.S. economy. It has already discovered widespread misclassification of layoffs as "temporary" when they are most likely permanent. Many Americans that look like they're doing alright on paper are in need of more assistance.prevnext
Unable to Work
There are also the cases of Americans who are unable to work during the coronavirus pandemic — either because they are sick, recovering or are in a high-risk category that prevents them from going out. As noted above, some people also went back to work at public spaces only to have those businesses close shortly after re-opening due to infections in the staff, lack of customers or some combination of the two.
Whether they can't work or they have nowhere to work, millions of Americans who typically power the leisure, service and hospitality industries are stuck in limbo right now, according to a report by Fortune. These people are counting on unemployment and stimulus to see them through to the development of a coronavirus vaccine.prevnext
Unemployment Enhancement Expiring
It is not controversial to say that the CARES Act's unemployment enhancement provision should be extended past its July 31 deadline, according to a new poll by Yahoo Finance. It found that the majority of Americans want to see this program extended to the end of the coronavirus pandemic.
The CARES Act provided federal funding to states for unemployment benefits, ensuring that an additional $600 would be added to the usual unemployment payments individuals got after being laid off. Republicans have reportedly expressed fears that this program creates an incentive to not work, though it can only be claimed by those who were laid off against their will. With the economy still in flux and the job market slim, many see this enhancement as the best chance for keeping people housed and fed for the next few months.prevnext
One of the most heartbreaking issues of the coronavirus pandemic is that of childcare for working parents. Families who depended on school or daycare to keep their children safe throughout the day are suddenly left with no options, just as some parents are being called back to work. Even those working from home, in some cases, are now being forced to chose between their families and their careers, as in the case of Florida State University employees, who were told earlier this month that they are not allowed to care for children while working remotely.
In an op-ed for Forbes, writer Liz Elting made a simple proposal to solve problems like this — compassion. She wrote: "I was optimistic, at the beginning of this, that a sort of pandemic solidarity would take hold and lead to the reimagining of the American workplace. I still believe that the best possible solution is to simply recognize that working families are in a tough situation, one that is only getting worse in much of the country outside the Northeast, and make allowances for the asymmetry of work and childcare."
Elting proposed "a commitment to the simple fact that businesses should operate from a place of care and an approach that assures working parents won’t be penalized for performing their ultimate duty of keeping their children safe, fed, cared for, healthy, and loved."
Of course, measures that can ensure and enforce this kind of solidarity are welcome, including another stimulus check. Whether they are able to work through the pandemic or not, all parents could benefit from a boost during this time.prevnext
Last week, a survey by Apartment List found that 32 percent of American households missed their housing payments for July — whether that is rent, a mortgage or another arrangement. The startling statistic spells bad news for housing security in the U.S. as the pandemic rages on.
The federal government did put a moratorium on evictions, which has been extended to the end of August, but it only protects about one-fourth of renters in the U.S., according to a report by CNBC. Some states have stricter protections in place, but others do not, and as some try to reopen public spaces, more and more Americans are growing fearful of their housing status.
Some lawmakers have called for freezing or canceling rent and mortgage payments for the rest of the coronavirus pandemic, though the proposal has not gained much traction. In the meantime, another stimulus check would ensure that residents have at least something to pay for their homes with.prevnext
Of course, in broad terms, another stimulus package would provide just that — economic stimulus. By the simple act of spending any money on goods and services, recipients of this aid would help stimulate the U.S. economy, getting the gears moving and creating space for innovation.
The downside to this is that stimulus checks come from the federal government, and are certain to increase the national deficit. For the most part, Republican lawmakers have been the ones expressing fear over this, though analysts like Business Insider's David Plotz have noted that it is unusual for Republicans to be hesitant about the national debt when a member of their own party is in the White House.
For the U.S., the national deficit is a longstanding issue with deep roots and no clear solution. It has been driven up and worked down several times before, and many pundits argue that it is a much less urgent concern than the Americans suffering through this pandemic and economic recession.prevnext
Finally, another stimulus check would have a practical impact on public health and coronavirus prevention itself. With a modicum of financial security, American workers could make more thoughtful decisions about going out to work, to shop for deals, or to take other risks. According to a report by CBS News, 54 percent of American consumers have had their income effected by the coronavirus pandemic, and that creates a pressure to go out and seek resources.prev