America is on the verge of a crisis the likes of which it has not seen in decades. As of August 1st, the CARES act expired, meaning millions of Americans face eviction and the loss of their unemployment benefits during an ongoing pandemic and economic crisis. Unfortunately, as the senate reconvenes today, there are little signs of progress in securing a new bill. Once again, we have the Republican Party to thank.
The CARES Act, passed in March, provided expanded unemployment benefits of up to $600 a week to those who lost their jobs because of the pandemic shutdown. The bill also provided eviction protections for those behind on rent. A general moratorium on evictions was in place until this past Friday. Now that the moratorium is officially gone, up to 43 million Americans face eviction (in the middle of a pandemic!).
Credit where credit is due, the Democrats in Congress have been fairly decent on this front. Nancy Pelosi, of all people, has been stalwart in the position of extending the CARES Act as it was originally passed. The Democratic Party’s view has largely been to extend the expanded unemployment rate of $600 a week until February, as well as the moratorium on evictions. Democrats have also strongly stood by the position of maintaining additional funding for state and local governments. Republicans, however, have not budged.
Republican leadership in the Senate wants to pass an amended version of the CARES Act. Mitch McConnell’s version of the bill includes a reduced unemployment payment of $200 a week and another round of $1200 checks, but the bill lacks aid to state and local governments as well as weak provisions to protect renters from eviction.
McConnell’s watered-down bill is rationalized by the idea that if the government pays workers more then what they normally earn then it discourages them from going back to work. The idiocy with this is multi-layered, but there are two glaring components.
First, the whole point of paying workers the $600 a week was for them to stay home and not work, as forcing people back to work in a pandemic will only make the situation worse. Second, there are not many jobs to go back to, as many service workers (like myself) have jobs that are still closed and not many jobs are hiring full time at my previous pay-rate.
There are more unemployed people then the job market can keep up with now. The market also varies by region. My state of Louisiana, for example, had a weak job market before the pandemic. The situation has only gotten worse, as most of the jobs available are in retail or grocery stores only offering part-time work. $10 and hour at 10-15 hours a week is not really going to cut it financially. My state’s unemployment benefits are also abysmally low, at only $247 a week.
While McConnell’s plan is atrocious based on the circumstances, half of his caucus in the Senate is opposed to passing a new bill all together. McConnell wants to shell out crumbs, while half of his fellow Republicans do not even want to do that.
While I have plenty of criticism of the Democratic Party, the Republican Party has quite literally become a death cult. The Democrats may be extremely flawed in many ways, but the Republicans are literally willing to let people lose their incomes and get thrown out on the street without doing anything to provide security for them. This is beyond a corrupt flaw; this is psychopathy at its most clear form.
In the coming weeks, with the CARES act expired, a crisis of epic proportion will unfold, and America will come to a crossroads. Will we as a nation sit on our hands while millions lose their income and homes, cast out into the streets with nothing during a pandemic? How we react in the coming weeks will reveal much more about our character as a society then anything else. Will we reject barbarism, or will we embrace it as we so often have before?