Donald Trump refused to seriously negotiate a new coronavirus relief package, the Republican-controlled Senate didn’t push him to do so, and now, more than three months after the House passed its own bill and not quite a month after the expanded unemployment insurance lapsed, people are suffering.
According to Columbia University researcher Zach Parolin, the $500 billion in direct aid to actual people kept 17 million of those people from falling below the poverty line. It’s not hard to get from there to what happens if the aid isn’t renewed. More than 40% of Black and Latino renters and 21% of white renters said in recent months that they were unlikely to be able to pay the next month’s rent. Around 12% of people said they were experiencing food insecurity even before the $600 weekly unemployment boost expired. Now? Unemployment is still high and the safety net has been taken away.
Charities are stretched to the breaking point and cannot handle the level of need—nor should they have to. Code of Vets, a nonprofit helping veterans, has seen its caseload go from 86 a month to 1,300. That’s 1,300 families desperate for help with basic needs like food and diapers and medications. And those are veterans. The YMCA of Greater Boston delivered more than twice as many meals between March 16 and Aug. 7 than it did in all of 2019.
The National Low Income Housing Coalition is lobbying for a national eviction moratorium along with $100 billion in emergency assistance to help renters, but also to help landlords, who have expenses that don’t go away either. In New Orleans, activists have tried to block eviction hearings.
Activists and advocates point to the increased danger of homelessness during a pandemic—an increased danger not just to homeless people, in this case, but to entire communities if COVID-19 spreads more quickly because people can’t distance and can’t practice adequate hygiene.
We are talking about enormous human suffering here, and Republicans are wasting months trying to negotiate Democrats down to wholly inadequate funding to fight it.