• Nathan Max

Stimulus Stalemate is National Crisis


Photo credit: Andrew Harnik/AP. For three months, Senate Republicans have held up an unemployment extension for millions.

Senate Republicans don’t seem to grasp the seriousness of the situation.


Three months after House Democrats passed the HEROES Act that would have extended enhanced unemployment benefits to millions, there still has been no action taken in the Senate and no resolution to a crisis that is engulfing the nation. Instead, Americans from coast to coast are getting biweekly benefit checks that are $1,200 lighter.


Now, the Senate is on recess until September. Where is the sense of urgency?


The paltry amount out-of-work Americans are now receiving varies by state, but a quick examination of California gives us a glimpse into the abyss into which people are staring. A low-wage independent contractor in the Golden State has just had his or her every-other-week check reduced from $1,534 to $334.


How is someone who lives in the Los Angeles, San Francisco or San Diego region supposed to live off that? A person can’t be expected to make ends meet on $167 a week in Stockton, Fresno or Modesto, let alone in some of the most expensive metro areas in the nation.


This is a national crisis that affects real people, and the situation is going to spiral out of control quickly. Lines at food banks are growing longer. Landlords are champing at the bit to commence evictions. If government doesn’t take action, we could start seeing homeless encampments on a similar scale of what they used to call “Hoovervilles,” during the Great Depression, named after then-president Herbert Hoover.


Donald Trump’s legally dubious attempt to restore a percentage of that money is under a cloud of doubt. First, he said the unemployed would get $400 a week under last week’s executive order, but that included an optimistic assumption that cash-strapped states would throw in $100. The vast majority won’t.


That leaves the unemployed with a potential $300-a-week federal enhancement, cut in half from $600. Just one problem. The expenditure is an entirely new government program and won’t be paid out from states’ existing unemployment systems. That means an entirely new infrastructure needs to be built, which could take weeks. Millions of Americans don’t have that kind of time to patiently wait for the government to get its act together.


What about Trump’s executive order to extend the eviction moratorium? Turns out, it does nothing to prevent evictions.


The obvious solution is for Congress to either pass the HEROES Act or push through some kind of compromise. Ivanka Trump’s tone-deaf, out-of-touch solution that out-of-work Americans simply “find something new,” is not a realistic option when there are limited jobs available.


Republicans have dithered for months. At first, Mitch McConnell said he wanted to wait it out and see if the economy would bounce back. It did slightly, at the expense of making the COVID-19 virus erupt, which led to the needless deaths of tens of thousands more Americans. Then, he offered up the less-than-generous token amount of $100 a week, which was soon raised to $200, as if that is anywhere near enough to cover a family’s rent and groceries.


Now, they’re suddenly concerned with spending and the growing deficit, an issue nobody had when every GOP senator voted to pass Donald Trump’s massive tax cut. Republicans always react with a quickness whenever it comes to keeping money in rich people’s pockets. But when it comes time to help poor people, that’s when we all need to tighten our belts and become fiscally responsible.


It seems Donald Trump and his allies are intent on turning every middle-class person in this country into a poor person, and every poor person into a destitute person.


This virus isn’t going away any time soon. Cold-and-flu season is approaching, and with Republicans pushing for schools to reopen, we could very well see a public-health catastrophe in the fall and winter months that makes what we have already experienced pale in comparison. The situation will exacerbate if hundreds of thousands of people are living in homeless shelters and encampments.


This shouldn’t be that difficult. The disaster that is about to unfold if nothing is done is entirely predictable.


Congressional Republicans needs to get it together now for the sake of a nation teetering on the edge.

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