Dereliction of Duty

Whether due to inability or unwillingness, the United States Congress has consistently been unable to compromise on provisions for COVID-19 relief as the pandemic reaches its 8th month of devastation.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc and destruction both to the economy and to the physical and mental well-being of populations around the world, the United States stands peculiarly detached from the global response.  While the containment of the virus is an incredibly complex and unprecedented problem facing virtually every country, the almost complete disregard by the U.S government for the financial and economic well-being of its citizens is unfathomable.   Governments around the world, Western European and Scandinavian countries in particular, have sprung into action and enacted policies to safeguard their citizens during this unprecedented emergency.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic the only direct aid that most Americans have received came during April, in the form of a one-time $1,200 stimulus check with an additional $500 for each dependent.  The cash relief gave many individuals and families some short-term stability, although a single disbursement has proven to be magnitudes smaller in scale than the situation calls for.  The evidence of the inadequacy of the government’s actions is on full display across front pages and television screens as the tally of the death tolls and lives ruined climbs higher and higher by the day.  Unemployment numbers are skyrocketing as the lockdowns imposed for safety concerns over the virus have caused many businesses to fall apart.  Workers who still manage to remain employed are often finding their hours drastically cut as entire industries see record setting losses of revenue.  High levels of evictions during the COVID-19 emergency are creating further complications, not even allowing Americans to have the assurance of a roof over their head during the worst global crisis since World War ll.  A moratorium on evictions for those renting properties with a federal backed mortgage was enacted during the crisis, but only covers about 28% of rental properties across the country.  The encapsulation of this hostile environment takes the form of an Uber-like start up for landlords called CIVVL, which enables the contracting out of an eviction crew with the press of a button.

To see the contrast between the lackluster disaster response by the United States and what an appropriate reaction to the Coronavirus crisis might look like, one needs to look no further than almost any other developed country’s response.  At the very start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March, New Zealand passed a $12.1 billion stimulus package which equals to approximately 4% of its GDP.  Nearly half of the money in this stimulus package went towards wage subsidies for businesses impacted by the virus.  Many full -time workers whose jobs were impacted qualified for benefits averaging out to $585 per week over a 12- week period paid in a lump sum of $7,020.  The United States neighbor directly to the north also sprung into action in late March with unprecedented government action.  Canada gave workers whose jobs were affected $1,399 per month.  Many European countries also experimented with some form of Universal Basic Income to combat the financial plight inflicted by the disaster.  Countries such as Germany, Italy, and Spain all passed provisions to get money into the hands of its citizens in a time of extreme hardship.

While the existence or the lethality of the virus cannot be attributed to the government,  as the wealthiest nation in the history of the world the United States could surely have supported and protected its citizens to a far greater extent than it has.  The non-existent leadership from the federal government has left states scrambling to craft wildly differing response measures, and the complete inability of the Congress to come together and compromise on a bill to get assistance into the hands of the vulnerable people it is sworn to serve is such irony for the lone Superpower in the world.

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