Handouts: A different perspective

So far, the total relief money allocated by the federal government in respect of the COVID-19 pandemic crisis is $2,000,000,000,000. That’s a 2 with 12 zeroes. And there’s more to come.

There are 328,200,000 people in the USA. Ages 0-14 years = 61,110,000; ages 15-64 years = 214,478,000; over 65 = 52,610,000 — all approximately until the new Census is tabulated.

If everyone under the age of 14 was given $250 a month for five months, and everyone aged 15 to 64 was given $1,500 a month for the next five months and everyone over 65 was given $1,000 a month for the next five months, the total payout by the government would be $76,387,500,000 + $1,608,585,000,000 + $265,050,000,000 for a grand total, spread over five months, of $1,950,022,500,000 or less than the $2,000,000,000,000 already allocated.

Now, imagine you’re a working family of four. Your bank and everyone you have to deal with (car payments, utilities, etc.) would know that over the five-month period you would have a federal guaranteed income — non-repayable, not a loan — of $17,500, or $3,500 a month. Of course, if your kids were over the age of 14, then the monthly total would be $6,000 and it would be $30,000 over five months.

A retired couple — still getting Social Security — would also have $2,000 a month or $10,000 over that five-month period.

Why is this more fair? Because work in America and taxes in America are all about people, not companies, not Wall Street. If General Motors has to shutter its plant while the pandemic rages, what does it matter except for the workers who may never return? By shoring up the workers, you can be assured they will be able and capable to return to work. Guaranteeing short-term employee wages at a time when GM and other consumer good manufacturers won’t be selling any cars or goods achieves nothing for the families and only enriches the factory owners and business.

Business without employees or customers always fail. It is that simple. In times of crisis, when work is impossible (and that’s a key ingredient here), the only future asset a company has is the employees. If the employees are able to weather the storm, then the factory and manufacturing, and diners and hair salons will be able to re-open when the storm passes. If you fund the business instead of the workers, you may allow that hair salon to pay a landlord, but you never guarantee the worker will be able or want to return. If you fund the manufacturing plant you may guarantee that loans to banks and bond holders get paid, but when you want to re-open the plant you may not find either a healthy or able workforce.

Now, many will say that’s what unemployment pay is for… let’s start with a simple fact. The estimate is that 30% of the people who have tried to file for unemployment let alone Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) can’t even get online or anyone on the phone. Lines in offices are days, yes days, long. Unemployment, sudden massive unemployment filing was never contemplated or funded. It’s a mess. And unemployment is limited in time, way shorter than five months state by state.

If the reason for any bailout or relief is to weather this pandemic and be able to resume normal life, it makes far more sense to fund the people whose life it is, not the businesses that need their labor.


Peter Riva, a former resident of Amenia Union, now lives in New Mexico. 

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