American workers need more than a one-time cash payment (opinion)


The congressional stimulus package allows us to do this, but that one-time cash payment – $ 1,200 per person, $ 2,400 per couple, plus an additional $ 500 per child – just isn’t enough.

Giving money directly to American families through cash payments so they have the flexibility and autonomy to make their own financial decisions is a good idea. But we need to increase the amount and frequency of these payments.

Just consider this: For the more than 100 million American families who rent, that bill alone averages $ 1,405 per month. It doesn’t take an economist to see that the math doesn’t work. Suppose you just lost your job while working in a hotel or restaurant. Getting direct cash payment to help pay your rent in a few days is great, but what about next month? How do you restock your refrigerator? Pay your electricity bill? And, if you are one of the millions of people who live, work, and pay taxes in America but are not a citizen, you can forget about all help.

While the stimulus bill offers a boost of $ 600 per week on top of state unemployment insurance benefits – and I think that was a very important part of the bill for which the Democrats fought hard – these benefits are only in place for four months. So what ?

While this is a crucial short-term measure, it just seems like it’s not enough. Data released yesterday shows that nearly 3.3 million Americans filed for unemployment last week, breaking all previously recorded records. The jobs most prone to layoffs are also those where workers can least afford them.
Research from the last bailout shows us that some of the most effective measures were those that focused on people, not businesses. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the money that has been used to consolidate state and local budgets has saved the jobs of some 300,000 teachers and support staff.
Yet so many families are still trying to rebuild what was lost, especially those of color.
We are in a health crisis and entering a real economic catastrophe, with James Bullard, the head of the Federal Reserve of St. Louis, projecting that the unemployment rate could reach 30%, it is more than three times the rate us saw at the height of the Great Recession. And while most estimates are less dramatic than that, there are all signs that this is one of the worst, if not the most serious, economic crises our country has ever seen. Instead of the one-time payment included in the back-up plan, we need an ongoing infusion of financial support to Americans who need it most.
Giving people money is a proven idea: My former colleague Natalie Foster’s organization, the Economic Security Project, partnered with Mayor Michael Tubbs to organize a demonstration of the idea in Stockton, California. In the protest, 100 residents receive $ 500 a month – without any conditions. The project ends this summer, but early research shows families who receive the monthly checks feel less stressed, continue to work, and are able to cut a second or third job to spend more time with their families.
The mayor of Stockton is not the only supporter of this idea. Andrew Yang ran for president on the idea of ​​giving people $ 1,000 a month, launching a new kind of populism in the 2020 election. And nearly 800,000 people signed the petition of a restaurant owner, claiming $ 2,000 a month until the economic downturn is over.
The congressional one-time payment is a good down payment for families and a major victory for a concept – giving money directly to people – that was considered radical just a few months ago. If executives can find the will to allocate billions to bail out big companies like airlines, then they should certainly show the same continued support to the millions of Americans who work and buy from these companies – laying the groundwork for them. a strong recovery when the virus subsides.

Lawmakers, comfortable in the security of their regular paychecks, must return to Washington to ensure their constituents enjoy the same stability through continued cash payments until this crisis is over.


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