Fifty million unemployed workers, 25 million families evicted or foreclosed on, 15 million small businesses gone bankrupt: this is what another Great Depression could look like. And we are on the brink of this very thing.
Decisions made this month by Congress will decide whether we tip over into depression or not.
At the beginning of the pandemic, Congress enacted and the President signed, the CARES Act. It was designed to address the economic stress from a short shutdown of the economy to fight COVID-19. The additional $600 a week for the unemployed, the $1200 a person stimulus check, and the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) all were created by the Act.
But the pandemic remains largely uncontrolled in the US, months after the CARES Act was passed. As a result of the Act over 50 million people are unemployed. And even still, large numbers of people have not received their $1200 stimulus check or have not received pandemic-related unemployment payments. The CARES Act’s short-term benefits and terrible structure have run its course as many of its provisions expire at the end of the month.
So where is Congress?
Congress has the power to save the economy while we fight COVID-19. No matter how long it takes.
They can do this by guaranteeing the paychecks of all workers in all businesses (even the now unemployed) and by guaranteeing the other essential overhead costs of all businesses that have suffered from the economic shutdown of the pandemic.
By doing this there is little motive to reopen the economy before the pandemic is under control. Workers will still be attached to their job and health insurance and receive their normal paycheck. Businesses will keep their physical resources unharmed and their workforce attached. And the economy will be more or less intact and ready to go when the pandemic is finally under control.
Many other nations are successfully doing this very thing, including Denmark, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Ireland, France, Germany, and Australia.
There are three bills that would save lives and livelihoods: Rep. Pramila Jayapal’s (D-Seattle) “Paycheck Recovery Act” H.R. 6918; Sen. Mark Warner’s (D-VA) “Paycheck Security Act” S. 3793; and Sen. Josh Hawley’s (R-MO) “Rehire America Plan” which has not been introduced.
These bipartisan bills have been on the table for months. Only H.R. 6918 has had a committee hearing, one of three required, at the beginning of July. Both House and Senate leadership have failed to take further action on these bills that our country needs at this time.
Failure to act on these bills means that Congress will allow, at best, the kicking of the can down the road as it will double down on the flawed CARES Act, which put tens of millions of workers into unemployment.
At worst, Congress will be directly responsible for throwing the US into another Great Depression.
Tell Senators Tester and Daines and Rep. Gianforte, to co-sponsor one or all of the bills, for none of them have yet. The time is now!
Josh Decker and Mark Anderlik are the co-chairs of the Western Montana Democratic Socialists of America