Nobody expected 2020 to go this way. By the time the coronavirus reached the United States, it became abundantly clear that the outbreak was well on its way to becoming a pandemic.
While some saw the quarantine period as an opportunity to take on new hobbies and perfect their crafts, millions of people did not know how they were going to buy groceries, much less pay their bills.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in March of this year, unemployment rates rose to 4.4%. This translated to 7.1 million people out of work. As we know, that was only the beginning. Unemployment rates reached a record high in April, peaking at 14.7%. Meanwhile, President Donald Trump was downplaying the virus and even advised individuals to inject disinfectant into their bloodstream. Trump’s lack of urgency in dealing with COVID-19 proved to be damaging to businesses and fatal to hundreds of thousands of Americans.
In late March of this year when Trump signed the CARES Act, 2.2 trillion dollars was allocated to stimulating the economy in response to the economic crisis created by COVID-19. Those who qualified for the stimulus aid received a 1,200 dollar check. Soon after the aid was disbursed, it became evident that the relief plan did little to support those in need. TIME Magazine reported in June that in the post-analysis of the CARES Act, the money intended to stimulate the economy just benefited the rich. While larger corporations received large sums of money, smaller businesses were struggling to stay afloat.
Almost every day another mom and pop shop is being forced to close its doors because of the economic crisis at hand. Fortune Magazine published in September that about 100,000 businesses were forced to shut down permanently because of the pandemic. The United States’ working-class is in critical condition right now. However, there is an apparent lack of care for their suffering.
In late November of this year, the Dow hit 30,000, the highest it has ever been. Concurrently, the Aspen Institute predicts that between 30-40 million people are at risk of being evicted from their homes this year.
At times it is hard to contextualize numbers to understand the implications they pose. To put things into perspective, while the market is doing the best it ever has, there are unprecedented amounts of people lined up at food banks. Some landlords are unlawfully evacuating their tenants, people are undergoing food insecurity, and others don’t even have enough to keep the lights on.
Not only are individuals having to deal with a global pandemic with no tangible end in sight, but we are also witnessing an utter failure on behalf of the federal government in ensuring the well-being of its citizens. As we get ready to welcome President-elect Joe Biden, we must hold him accountable during his time in office. We need a second stimulus package that is intended to help those who are financially insecure. It should include monthly payments, rent and mortgage cancellation, student debt cancellation, medicare for all, free vaccinations, and free COVID-19 testing and treatment.
Currently, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has an eviction moratorium in place, but it will expire on the 31st of December; after that, there will be an influx of homeless people on the streets with no resources to aid them. Even after a vaccine is distributed, there will continue to be economic ramifications, and they will be almost entirely felt by the working class. Therefore, we must advocate for those who are most vulnerable right now.
First and foremost, those who have financial means should be donating to food banks and other organizations that are assisting individuals facing hardship right now. Volunteering your time is also another way to help ensure the well-being of your community. Spreading awareness about resources is extremely important too, as you may be helping someone keep their home or secure a hot meal. Right now the Federal Housing Administration is allowing homeowners to apply for various financial relief programs, and renters can sign declarations to present to landlords or the court to keep a roof over their heads.
This is an extraordinarily necessary time for collective action. In the wake of the federal government abandoning us, we must realize that we keep us safe. This also means following CDC guidelines for social distancing and wearing a mask when out in public.
If anything, this virus has taught us that community matters. It is vital to the welfare of your community that you stay informed, and that you use your voice and other resources to help those in need. Otherwise, nobody else will.
Times are hard and the future is uncertain. However, we will get through this together.