IF YOUR TIME IS SHORT
- The Democratic bill has $410 billion in stimulus checks and $360 billion in aid to state and local governments.
- Expanded unemployment benefits cost $242 billion.
- School spending is nearly $170 billion spread out over 10 years.
There are a few big chunks of money in the American Rescue Plan Act that have generated a lot of news coverage and are pretty well known. In response to a reader’s request, we present the whopping $1.86 trillion spending plan in pie chart form.
There are the $1,400 checks (or more likely deposits) to many citizens or permanent legal residents and their dependents. That comes to about $410 billion.
Aid to state, local, territorial and tribal governments costs about $360 billion.
The bill boosts and extends unemployment benefits. Add another $242 billion.
Over the next 10 years, the law spends nearly $170 billion on education. That includes $129 billion for K-12 schools — both public and private — and about $40 billion for higher education.
The money for vaccines and corralling the coronavirus became a political talking point. Democrats touted the $20-25 billion they included for vaccine supplies and research. Republicans argued that the bill spent less than 10% of its total cost on COVID-19.
People will parse the numbers in different ways. Some only count money spent directly on vaccine production. Some look more broadly at the economic damage wrought by the virus. We looked for money that went towards health care, whether that meant improving treatment on tribal lands, adding health care workers at clinics, or anything that reduced the health impacts of the pandemic.
We put the bill’s total public health spending at $143 billion.
Within that, the single biggest line item is $47.8 billion for mitigating the disease, a broad description that includes testing and surveillance. There is also $15 billion for COVID-related health care for veterans, $7.6 billion to help community health centers distribute vaccines, and about the same amount to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for roughly the same purpose.
The chart above lays out how the money breaks down.
All of the amounts so far come to $1.3 trillion over 10 years. The bill’s total cost is $1.86 trillion, which leaves about $500 billion dollars to flesh out.
The law has over $40 billion for child care. Money to keep people in their homes and to house the homeless comes to about $44 billion. There is $10 billion to put food on people’s tables. The expected cost of temporarily boosting the child tax credit is $109 billion.
In our chart, we fold all of that, plus subsidies for pensions and health insurance premiums, into the category of support for families. Our total is $352 billion.
Our last distinct category is transportation. Under that umbrella, we put $30 billion for mass transit, $15 billion for the airline industry, $8 billion for airports, and other related activities. That came to $58 billion.
The catch-all bucket of other spending includes items such as $66 billion for businesses, $50 billion for disaster relief at the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and $7 billion to expand broadband internet.
State-level reports are the best publicly available data on child COVID-19 cases in the United States. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association are collaborating to collect and share all publicly available data from states on child COVID-19 cases (definition of “child” case is based on varying age ranges reported across states; see report Appendix for details and links to all data sources).
As of November 12th, over 1 million children have tested positive for COVID-19 since the onset of the pandemic. The age distribution of reported COVID-19 cases was provided on the health department websites of 49 states, New York City, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Guam. Children represented 11.5% of all cases in states reporting cases by age.
A smaller subset of states reported on hospitalizations and mortality by age; the available data indicated that COVID-19-associated hospitalization and death is uncommon in children.
The number of new child COVID-19 cases reported this week, nearly 112,000, is by far the highest weekly increase since the pandemic began. At this time, it appears that severe illness due to COVID-19 is rare among children. However, there is an urgent need to collect more data on longer-term impacts on children, including ways the virus may harm the long-term physical health of infected children, as well as its emotional and mental health effects.
Summary of Findings (data available as of 11/12/20) :
(Note: Data represent cumulative counts since states began reporting)
Cumulative Number of Child COVID-19 Cases*
- 1,039,464 total child COVID-19 cases reported, and children represented 11.5% (1,039,464/9,037,991) of all cases
- Overall rate: 1,381 cases per 100,000 children in the population
Change in Child COVID-19 Cases*
- 111,946 new child COVID-19 cases were reported the past week from 11/5-11/12 (927,518 to 1,039,464)
- Over two weeks, 10/29-11/12, there was a 22% increase in child COVID-19 cases (185,829 new cases (853,635 to 1,039,464))
Testing (10 states reported)*
- Children made up between 5.0%-17.4% of total state tests, and between 3.9%-18.8% of children tested were tested positive
Hospitalizations (23 states and NYC reported)*
- Children were 1.2%-3.3% of total reported hospitalizations, and between 0.5%-6.1% of all child COVID-19 cases resulted in hospitalization
Mortality (42 states and NYC reported)*
- Children were 0.00%-0.21% of all COVID-19 deaths, and 16 states reported zero child deaths
- In states reporting, 0.00%-0.15% of all child COVID-19 cases resulted in death
* Note: Data represent cumulative counts since states began reporting; All data reported by state/local health departments are preliminary and subject to change
Many children heading back to school—in whichever form that that may take this fall—have skipped their annual visit to the pediatrician. The graphic above highlights the sluggish rebound in pediatric ambulatory volume. While adult primary care visits have mostly bounced back, pediatric visits are still 26 percent below pre-COVID levels.
The drop in visits early in the pandemic also impacted immunizations, with 2.5M regular childhood vaccinations missed in the US during the first quarter of 2020—and early data suggests those seem to be rebounding at a similarly anemic rate.
This lack of pediatric routine care is particularly worrisome as COVID-19 cases in children are climbing, with a 90 percent increase from July to August. Though most of the nation’s largest public school districts have opted to begin the school year with online learning, some districts have already returned to in-person classes, and, unsurprisingly, new cases are already being reported.
While COVID-19 is normally neither severe nor fatal in children, infections among school-age kids put others at risk. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, nearly a quarter of teachers (1.5M) are considered high-risk and almost six percent of seniors (3.3M) live with school-aged children.
Without the traditional back-to-school push for well-child visits, sports physicals, and immunization updates, healthcare providers must think creatively about how to give children with the care they need, whether through personalized communication from pediatricians that assuages parental concerns about office safety, or through more innovative means such as drive-thru vaccination services.
Kelyn Yanez used to clean homes during the day and wait tables at night in the Houston area before the coronavirus. But the mother of three lost both jobs in March because of the pandemic and now is facing eviction.
The Honduran immigrant got help from a local church to pay part of July’s rent but was still hundreds of dollars short and is now awaiting a three-day notice to vacate the apartment where she lives with her children. She has no idea how she will meet her August rent.
“Right now, I have nothing,” said Yanez, who briefly got her bar job back when the establishment reopened, but lost it again when she and her 4-year-old daughter contracted the virus in June and had to quarantine. The apartment owners “don’t care if you’re sick, if you’re not well. Nobody cares here. They told me that I had to have the money.”
Yanez, who lives in the U.S. illegally, is among some 23 million people nationwide at risk of being evicted, according to The Aspen Institute, as moratoriums enacted because of the coronavirus expire and courts reopen. Around 30 state moratoriums have expired since May, according to The Eviction Lab at Princeton University. On top of that, some tenants were already encountering illegal evictions even with the moratoriums.
Now, tenants are crowding courtrooms — or appearing virtually — to detail how the pandemic has upended their lives. Some are low-income families who have endured evictions before, but there are also plenty of wealthier families facing homelessness for the first time — and now being forced to navigate overcrowded and sometimes dangerous shelter systems amid the pandemic.
Experts predict the problem will only get worse in the coming weeks, with 30 million unemployed and uncertainty whether Congress will extend the extra $600 in weekly unemployment benefits that expired Friday. The federal eviction moratorium that protects more than 12 million renters living in federally subsidized apartments or units with federally backed mortgages expired July 25. If it’s not extended, landlords can initiate eviction proceedings in 30 days.
“It’s going to be a mess,” said Bill Faith, executive director of Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio, referring to the Census Bureau Household Pulse Survey, which found last week that more than 23% of Ohioans questioned said they weren’t able to make last month’s rent or mortgage payment or had little or no confidence they could pay next month’s.
Nationally, the figure was 26.5% among adults 18 years or older, with numbers in Louisiana, Oklahoma, Nevada, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, New York, Tennessee and Texas reaching 30% or higher. The margins of error in the survey vary by state.
“I’ve never seen this many people poised to lose their housing in a such a short period of time,” Faith said. “This is a huge disaster that is beginning to unfold.”
Housing advocates fear parts of the country could soon look like Milwaukee, which saw a 21% spike in eviction filings in June, to nearly 1,500 after the moratorium was lifted in May. It’s more than 24% across the state.
“We are sort of a harbinger of what is to come in other places,” said Colleen Foley, the executive director of the Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee.
“We are getting calls to us from zip codes that we don’t typically serve, the part of the community that aren’t used to coming to us,” she added. “It’s a reflection of the massive job loss and a lot of people facing eviction who aren’t used to not paying their rent.”
In New Orleans, a legal aid organization saw its eviction-related caseload almost triple in the month since Louisiana’s moratorium ended in mid-June. Among those seeking help is Natasha Blunt, who could be evicted from her two-bedroom apartment where she lives with her two grandchildren.
Blunt, a 50-year-old African American, owes thousands of dollars in back rent after she lost her banquet porter job. She has yet to receive her stimulus check and has not been approved for unemployment benefits. Her family is getting by with food stamps and the charity of neighbors.
“I can’t believe this happened to me because I work hard,” said Blunt, whose eviction is at the mercy of the federal moratorium. “I don’t have any money coming in. I don’t have nothing. I don’t know what to do. … My heart is so heavy.”
Along with exacerbating a housing crisis in many cities that have long been plagued by a shortage of affordable options, widespread discrimination and a lack of resources for families in need, the spike in filings is raising concerns that housing courts could spread the coronavirus.
Many cities are still running hearings virtually. But others, like New Orleans, have opened their housing courts. Masks and temperature checks are required, but maintaining social distance has been a challenge.
“The first couple of weeks, we were in at least two courts where we felt really quite unsafe,” said Hannah Adams, a staff attorney with Southeast Louisiana Legal Services.
In Columbus, Ohio, Amanda Wood was among some 60 people on the docket Friday for eviction hearings at a convention center converted into a courtroom.
Wood, 23, lost her job at a claims management company in early April. The following day, the mother of a 6-month-old found out she was pregnant again. Now, she is two months behind rent and can’t figure out a way to make ends meet.
Wood managed to find a part-time job at FedEx, loading vans at night. But her pregnancy and inability to find stable childcare has left her with inconsistent paychecks.
“The whole process has been really difficult and scary,” said Wood, who is hoping to set up a payment scheduled after meeting with a lawyer Friday. “Not knowing if you’re going to have somewhere to live, when you’re pregnant and have a baby, is hard.”
Though the numbers of eviction filings in Ohio and elsewhere are rising and, in some places reaching several hundred a week, they are still below those in past years for July. Higher numbers are expected in August and September.
Experts credit the slower pace to the federal eviction moratorium as well as states and municipalities that used tens of millions of dollars in federal stimulus funding for rental assistance. It also helped that several states, including Massachusetts and Arizona, have extended their eviction moratorium into the fall.
Still, experts argue more needs to be done at the state and federal level for tenants and landlords.
Negotiations between Congress and the White House over further assistance are ongoing. A $3 trillion coronavirus relief bill passed in May by Democrats in the House would provide about $175 billion to pay rents and mortgages, but the $1 trillion counter from Senate Republicans only has several billion in rental assistance. Advocacy groups are looking for over $100 billion.
“An eviction moratorium without rental assistance is still a recipe for disaster,” said Graham Bowman, staff attorney with the Ohio Poverty Law Center. “We need the basic economics of the housing market to continue to work. The way you do that is you need broad-based rental assistance available to families who have lost employment during this crisis.”
“The scale of this problem is enormous so it needs a federal response.”
Even with mitigation measures, attack rates outpaced the Diamond Princess cruise ship.
President Trump’s repeated statements that children are “almost immune” to COVID-19 got a fact check from state and federal public health investigators examining an outbreak at a Georgia summer camp.
Among 597 Georgia residents, including campers, staff members, and trainees, the attack rate was 44%, reported Christine M. Szablewski, DVM, of the Georgia Department of Public Health, and colleagues.
The attack rate was highest among staff members (56%). Younger children ages 6-10 had a rate of 51%, those ages 11-17 had a rate of 44%, and those ages 18-21 had a rate of 33%, the authors wrote in an early edition of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
By contrast, 19% of Diamond Princess cruise ship passengers tested positive for COVID-19 in February and March.
Among 136 cases with symptom information available, 26% reported no symptoms, with the authors specifically characterizing asymptomatic transmission as “common.” The flip side of that figure, however, is that a minimum of 100 children did develop symptoms. The report did not address symptom severity, outcomes, or transmission after leaving camp, as the investigation is still continuing, the authors indicated.
“This investigation adds to the body of evidence demonstrating that children of all ages are susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 infection and, contrary to early reports, might play an important role in transmission,” Szablewski and colleagues wrote.
Until recently, data on U.S. children contracting COVID-19, a key point in the argument to reopen schools, were scarce and conflicting. But recent evidence chipped away at the claim that kids are unaffected, with new research emerging this week about the association between school closures and declines in number of cases and deaths. Researchers also found children under age 5 may have far more SARS-CoV-2 viral nucleic acid in their noses than adults, which raises questions about their ability to transmit the virus.
While sleepover camps are not schools, and staff members are not teachers, the authors said the camps adopted CDC guidelines for youth and summer programs. All trainees, staff members, and campers provided documentation of a negative test for SARS-CoV-2. Cloth masks were required for staff members, though not campers, and the camp did not open doors and windows for increased ventilation, as recommended. Campers engaged in “a variety of indoor and outdoor activities,” including “daily vigorous singing and cheering,” they said.
The session was scheduled for June 21-27, and on June 23, a teenage staff member left after developing chills one day prior. The staff member tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. On June 24, campers were sent home, and on June 27, the camp was closed.
However, the damage was done. After excluding out-of-state attendees, researchers examined data from 597 Georgia residents at the camp. Campers were a median age of 12, and 53% were girls, while staff members were a median age of 17, and 59% were girls.
Of the 344 available testing results, 76% were positive for SARS-CoV-2. Not surprisingly, they found attack rates increased with increased time spent at the camp. Average occupancy was 15 per cabin, with a median attack rate of 50% among 28 cabins with one or more positive cases.
Among 100 patients reporting symptom data, two-thirds had fever, about 60% had headache, and 46% had a sore throat.
While the researchers said “consistent and correct” use of cloth masks, as well as physical distancing measures, should be emphasized to mitigate transmission in “congregate settings,” they acknowledged that “the multiple measures adopted by the camp were not sufficient to prevent an outbreak in the context of substantial community transmission.”
“An ongoing investigation will further characterize specific exposures associated with infection, illness course, and any secondary transmission to household members,” the group added.
The debate over whether and how much to re-open schools in the fall has put teachers in the precarious position of choosing between their own safety and the pressures from some parents and local officials.
Why it matters: Teachers are the core of K-12 education. The people we depend on to educate our society’s children may end up bearing the brunt of both the risk and the workload.
What’s happening: With coronavirus cases spiking in many parts of the U.S., districts are weighing the feasibility of keeping classes all virtual, as Los Angeles and San Diego are doing, or conducting a rotation of in-person and remote lessons.
While all back-to-school options have pros and cons, there are specific worries for teachers.
1. Exposure: Despite a child’s overall low health risk if they contract COVID-19, scientists still do not conclusively know if schools could become hotspots for more vulnerable populations.
- Schools are on a time and money crunch for better ventilation, more disinfectant and masks and proper social distancing techniques. If a cluster of cases do occur, teachers and parents are short on answers about how to isolate students and contact trace.
- Districts were already facing staffing shortages before the pandemic. And nearly 1.5 million teachers have a condition that puts them at increased risk of serious illness from coronavirus, per a Kaiser Family Foundation study. A separate KFF study out today found that 3.3 million adults age 65 or older live in a household with school-age children.
- A study in Germany found that infections in schools had not led to outbreaks in the community. But an analysis of a surge of cases in Israel found that nearly half the reported cases in June were traced back to illness in schools.
“We as teachers prepare for active shooters, tornadoes, fires and I’m fully prepared to take a bullet or shield a child from falling debris during a tornado. But if I somehow get it and I’m asymptomatic and I get a student sick and something happens to them or one of their family members, that’s a guilt I would carry with me forever.”
— Michelle Albright, a second grade teacher from northwest Indiana
2. Difficulty of a hybrid approach: Many school districts like New York City are opting to split school between in-person and online to minimize exposure. That’s an effective but more burdensome approach for teachers, top teachers union chief Randi Weingarten told Axios’ Dan Primack Monday.
- In-person contact with a teacher can make a big difference for students struggling with a concept or who need one-on-one time.
- But many teachers will have to prepare virtual and in-person lessons and ensure the same learning outcomes for students in both settings — a tall order.
3. Child care availability: Teachers with children of their own are concerned about how to care for them when they are teaching.
- States could choose to provide child care services for educators as essential employees, but it’s unclear what non-school child care options will be available in areas with high infection rates or where day care centers have struggled to stay in business.
4. Concerns of other school staff: Bus drivers, custodians, classroom aides, administrative staff, cafeteria workers, school nurses and substitute teachers may come in contact with more children throughout the day because they are less likely than teachers to be confined to a single classroom.
What to watch: School districts ought to be finding other roles for teachers who are not comfortable returning to the classroom, such as reassigning them to virtual-only roles or providing one-on-one online tutoring sessions with students, said John Bailey, visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and former domestic policy adviser during the George W. Bush administration.
- But there’s not much time to sort that out on top of getting teachers the professional development they need for effective remote learning.
- “What I worry about is that we squandered the few months we had to make sure we can think through these challenges,” Bailey said. “This was one of the most obvious challenges facing schools with reopening and we should have been thinking about that for the last several months. Instead it’s creeping up on districts.”
The bottom line: Due to the unprecedented nature of this pandemic, teachers are worried about the uncertainties and, in some cases, lack of clear planning should conditions worsen. That may drive some to quit teaching altogether.
- “You’ve got 25% of teachers who may be in either a high-risk situation because of pre-existing conditions or because of age, and a lot of them, if they can, they may just check out and say ‘nobody’s taking care of me. I can’t go back,'” Weingarten said.
I have a Ph.D. from Harvard and a 20-month-old child.
Without child care, life revolves around the toddler.
I am a political science professor and researcher, but lacking child care, I count myself lucky to work a few hours each day.
I am increasingly aware there is no such thing as the so-called work/family conflict. This is not only a personal observation. Scholars have found that good jobs – full-time, with benefits – and family, without help, are simply incompatible.
Work and family are both full-time pursuits. If the problem is framed as a choice between them, the battle is lost, since family will usually win. Telecommuting and “workplace flexibility” are important but do not make up for a lack of time and space to think and work.
Those who need care, especially little children, are needy and adorable, and mothers are evolutionarily disposed to focus on them.
(Whoops, excuse me, the toddler is trying to kill herself again … OK, child saved, with minimal screaming on both of our parts. Now what was I thinking? Did I reorder all our prescriptions? Hold on, I’ll be back.)
The national shift to home-based work and schooling has had challenging consequences for parents, especially mothers. Sometimes these effects are lovely, like giving us more time with family, but if your goal is getting work done, good luck to you.
She’s worse than a cat; she climbs on me, presses things on the computer, sucks its edges and screams for attention, in addition to the normal baby bodily functions that comprise a disproportionate section of my thinking – when did she last poop? Is that a rash?
It’s not just me.
Submissions from women to academic journals have plummeted since COVID-19 hit.
One geography professor tweeted, “It’s hard enough to keep my head barely above the water with the kids at home and interruptions every 2 min … I can’t imagine writing a paper now.”
Another scholar said the data on diminished submissions from women made her cry because it wasn’t just her.
It turns out that someone has to supervise – and sometimes force – children’s learning, even if online, and this takes actual work. With parks, museums, sports, pools and movie theaters closed, and with kids mostly unable to hang out with friends, someone also has to do the physical and emotional labor of keeping children busy, engaged and upbeat. This too is work.
Then there is the simple fact that family members are eating, working and playing in houses most of the time, which means more cooking, more cleaning, more grocery shopping and, yes, more toilet paper.
(OMG the baby took a two-hour nap. I got to exercise and even shower. No time for leg-shaving but I’m still a new woman. Now what was I thinking…)
Because it is not just time, you see. Sometimes the child is playing quietly, and theoretically I could sit down and bang out a research article, but my brain is fuzzy as hell.
Before the baby, and before COVID-19, I had great plans for composing scholarly articles in my head during all that nursing downtime. But I forgot that hormones can change your brain and behavior.
Hormones play a role
Feminist theory and research finds that much of what people think of as “biological sex” – female or male – is socially constructed, as in, strongly based on culturally contingent assumptions about women and men as groups. I firmly believe, and teach, this as evidence-based truth.
Hormones, though, have undeniable physical and mental effects. If they are turning your body into a milk-production and child-protection facility, there can be some side effects on brain function. Many of these changes (increased empathy and vigilance) are useful evolutionarily, and the physical alterations appear to be short-lived. But there can also be negative effects on memory and focus. If your brain is your job, as mine is, this can cause some serious work disruption.
Pat Schroeder had two young children when first elected to Congress as a Democrat from Colorado in the 1970s. When asked how she could do both jobs, she famously replied, “I have a brain and a uterus, and I use them both.”
I try to live up to Schroeder’s standard, but lately I’ve found I have to qualify it; I tell myself she meant sequentially, not simultaneously.
Sequential is fine, as long as I have time and space to switch gears – I’m a first-time mom at 40 and the gears sometimes stick or stall out – and the peace of mind to focus beyond the child and the never-ending housework. We don’t call this “women’s work” anymore, and men do more than they used to, but it’s essential work and still mostly done by women.
There’s another way
With luck and science, COVID-19 will recede soon, and we can trickle back to offices, for which I have a newfound respect.
Will the U.S. take something positive from this crisis by learning an enduring lesson about the power of child care?
Americans tend to think of having children as an expensive, private choice. The alternative is to think of it as a public good.
Other countries offer far more generous parental leave and low-cost, high-quality daycare, knowing that “work versus family” is a false formulation. The U.S. is losing serious talent and promoting gender inequality by continuing to misunderstand the problem.
There are many potential options when child care is made a priority in a society.
Government subsidies for child care centers would help low-income workers have access to good care. The U.S. almost managed this in 1971, when Congress passed, on a bipartisan vote, a bill to establish child care centers across the country, funded in part by the federal government. President Richard Nixon vetoed the bill.
Universal pre-K starting at age 3, as in New York City, is another option to advance the interests of working parents and children.
And because working parents are drowning in high child-care costs, the government could offer subsidies and tax relief for curriculum-based care – which encourages child development and learning as well as safety – for those early years. I make a pretty good salary, but still, an extra US$1,000 a month or more to ensure my child is safe and well cared for while I work is painful.
It’s not a work-family conflict; it is a lack of high-quality, low-cost child care. Framing the problem otherwise damages the ability to enact good solutions.
It also makes a lot of good, hardworking parents feel enduring guilt over a problem that isn’t theirs alone to solve.
With over 38 million U.S. unemployment claims in nine weeks, one economist says the situation is “grimmer than we thought.”
Even as restrictions on businesses began lifting across the United States, another 2.4 million workers filed for jobless benefits last week, the government reported Thursday, bringing the total to 38.6 million in nine weeks.
“I hate to say it, but this is going to take longer and look grimmer than we thought,” Nicholas Bloom, an economist at Stanford University, said of the path to recovery.
Mr. Bloom, a co-author of an analysis of the coronavirus epidemic’s effects on the labor market, estimates that 42 percent of recent layoffs will result in permanent job loss.
“Firms intend to hire these people back,” Mr. Bloom said, referring to a recent survey of businesses done by the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. “But we know from the past that these aspirations often don’t turn out to be true.”
In this case, the economy that comes back is likely to look quite different from the one that closed. If social distancing rules become the new normal, causing thinner crowds in restaurants, theaters and stores, at sports arenas, and on airplanes, then fewer workers will be required.
Large companies already expect more of their workers to continue to work remotely and say they plan to reduce their real estate footprint, which will, in turn, reduce the foot traffic that feeds nearby restaurants, shops, nail salons and other businesses.
Concerns about working in close quarters and too much social interaction could also accelerate the trend toward automation, some economists say.
New jobs, mostly at low wages — as delivery drivers, warehouse workers and cleaners — are being created. But many more jobs will vanish.
“I think we’re in for a very long haul,” Mr. Bloom said.
In the meantime, the Labor Department’s latest data on unemployment claims, for new filings last week, reflects the shutdown’s continuing damage to the labor force.
“The hemorrhaging has continued,” Torsten Slok, chief economist for Deutsche Bank Securities, said of the mounting job losses. He expects the official jobless rate for May to approach 20 percent, up from the 14.7 percent reported by the Labor Department for April.
A household survey from the Census Bureau released Wednesday suggested that the pain was widespread: 47 percent of adults said they or a member of their household had lost employment income since mid-March. Nearly 40 percent expected the loss to continue over the next four weeks.
In testimony before the Senate on Tuesday, the Federal Reserve chair, Jerome H. Powell, emphasized how devastating prolonged joblessness can be for individual households and for the economy.
“There is clear evidence that when you have a situation where people are unemployed for long periods of time, that can permanently weigh on their careers and their ability to go back to work,” he said.
Emergency relief and expanded unemployment benefits that Congress approved in late March have helped tide households over. Roughly three-quarters of people who are eligible for a $1,200 stimulus payment from the federal government have received it, according to the Treasury Department.
Workers who have successfully applied for unemployment benefits are getting the extra $600 weekly supplement from the federal government, and most states have finally begun to carry out the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which extends benefits to freelancers, self-employed workers and others who don’t routinely qualify. The total number of new pandemic insurance claims reported, though, was inflated by nearly a million because of a data entry mistake from Massachusetts, according to the state’s Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development.
Mistakes, lags in reporting and processing, and weeding out duplicate claims and reports have clouded the unemployment picture in some places.
What is clear, though, is that many states are still struggling to keep up with the overwhelming demand, drawing desperate complaints from jobless workers who have been waiting two months or more to receive their first benefit check. Indiana, Wyoming, Hawaii and Missouri are among the states with large backlogs of incompletely processed claims. Another is Kentucky, where nearly one in three workers are unemployed.
The $600 supplement has become a point of contention, drawing criticism from Republican politicians who object to the notion that some workers — particularly low-wage ones — are getting more money in unemployment benefits than they would on the job. But many have also lost their employer-provided health insurance and other benefits.
Sami Adamson, a freelance scenic artist for theater, events and television shows, received the letter with her login credentials to collect benefits from New Jersey only Monday, more than two months after she first applied.
She said her partner, who is in the same line of work, had filed for jobless benefits in New York and quickly received his payments.
By the time she heard from New Jersey, a design studio had called her for a temporary assignment. She plans to eventually reclaim the lost weeks of benefits, but for now she is helping to make face shields in a large warehouse where assembly-line workers are spaced apart, handling plastic, foam and elastic.
“I don’t think I’ll need aid for the next two or three weeks,” Ms. Adamson said, “but I’m not sure too far ahead of that.”
Nearly half of the states have yet to provide the additional 13 weeks of unemployment insurance that the federal government has promised to those who exhausted their state benefits. Workers in Florida — which provides just 12 weeks of benefits, the fewest anywhere — are particularly feeling this pinch. And while several states, including those that pay the average of 26 weeks, have offered additional weeks of coverage during the pandemic, Florida has not.
Small-business owners who were hoping the Paycheck Protection Program would enable them to keep their workers on the payroll contend the program is not operating as intended.
Roy Surdej, who owns Peaches Boutique in Chicago, applied for a loan after he was forced to close and the pandemic eliminated the season’s wave of proms, quinceañeras and graduation celebrations were canceled.
Under the program, the loan turns into a grant if he rehires the 100-person staff he had built up in February in anticipation of selling thousands of ruffled, sequined and strappy dresses during the spring rush. But he said that would be impossible, given the income he had lost and the restrictions that continue to pre-empt social gatherings.
“No way can I qualify for full forgiveness,” said Mr. Surdej, who said revenue had dried up. “It’s devastating for us,” he added, saying he had no clue when he would be able to reopen and begin rehiring. “If the government can’t adjust the dates to allow us to use it properly so we can survive, then I won’t use it.”
At the same time, the Congressional Budget Office warned that businesses able to use the Paycheck Protection Program might end up laying off workers when the program expires at the end of June.
Several states have warned workers that they risk losing their benefits if they refuse an offer to work. Federal rules enacted during the pandemic say that workers are not compelled to return to unsafe working conditions, but just what constitutes such conditions is not necessarily clear.
On Tuesday, Democratic senators sent a letter to Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia to “clarify the circumstances” so that workers are not “forced to choose between going back to work in unsafe conditions, or continuing to social distance and losing their only source of income.”
Workers with child care responsibilities can stay on unemployment if public schools are closed, but once the term ends, a lack of day care or summer programs is not considered a legitimate reason. Nor are self-imposed quarantines.
Officials can lift stay-at-home and business restrictions, but then what happens? “There are lingering concerns about health, family situations, kids not in school, relatives who are sick and needing care,” said Carl Tannenbaum, chief economist at Northern Trust. “There’s going to be a very slow and gradual process of reopening and restoring employment beyond just a declaration from the statehouse or the county seat.”
Philanthropist Melinda Gates on Thursday sharply criticized the U.S. response to the coronavirus outbreak, telling Yahoo Finance that the country is “lacking leadership at the federal level” and as a result has endured unnecessary deaths and economic pain.
“It’s highly distressing and disappointing,” says Gates, co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which she said has donated $300 million to organizations involved in the coronavirus response.
“To have 50 state-grown solutions is inefficient, it makes no sense, and it’s costing people their lives,” she adds.
President Donald Trump said on Tuesday “there’ll be more death” as states lift stay-at-home measures but has urged a path toward reopening the economy in order to blunt job loss and other damaging effects caused by the mandates.
The Trump administration has drawn criticism for what some consider a failure to adequately address the coronavirus outbreak in its early stages. Trump has repeatedly said “nobody” could have foreseen the pandemic though he reportedly received dire warnings as early as February.
“The lack of action is really causing harm and hurt unnecessarily in this country,” Gates says. “I’m incredibly disappointed to see that.”
The White House recently declined to take up guidelines written by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for how schools, restaurants, and other institutions can safely reopen, the Associated Press reported on Thursday.
The Trump administration did release a set of conditions for coronavirus containment that it recommends states meet before they reopen, including a 14-day downward trajectory in new cases or positive test rates. However, many states that remain short of that benchmark have started to reopen or will do it soon, among them Kentucky, Ohio, and Utah, the AP reported on Thursday.
On Friday, the monthly jobs report showed the U.S. economy cut 20.5 million payrolls in April, and the unemployment rate jumped to 14.7%.
The severity of economic pain is a direct result of inaction from the federal government, Gates said.
“It is impacting families now, because if we had a good testing and tracing system like Germany has, we would have started to reopen slowly more places in the economy, people wouldn’t be struggling so much to put a meal on their table,” says Gates, who released a book last year entitled “The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World.”
‘Difficult tension’ faced by parents at home
She said the U.S. must bolster its benefits for paid sick, medical, and family leave in order to mitigate some of the economic pain and reopen the economy, since some workers will return to their jobs while others will need to remain home to care for sick family members or children educated remotely.
Speaking with Yahoo Finance, she called on Congress to improve the paid sick and family leave expansion passed in March, which excluded many companies from the benefits requirements.
“Congress made a first step that is in one of the stimulus packages, they really did put in sick days and paid leave,” she says. “The problem is, it doesn’t go far enough.”
Moreover, she advocated for a nationwide paid medical and family leave plan — a proposal backed in part by both parties, though they differ sharply on the details.
The Republican-controlled Senate and Democrat-controlled House remain divided over an additional stimulus measure, while President Donald Trump has sought likely-polarizing tax cuts to be included in the bill, the New York Times reported on Wednesday.
Nevertheless, Gates said she is optimistic that Congress will enact paid medical and family leave.
“Congress is hearing about this difficult tension moms and dads — but particularly moms — are facing at home,” she says.