Editor’s Note: DCReport is posting this staff blog about the impact of the Coronavirus Pandemic each day for the duration. You can follow us here or at RawStory.com
Starve the Workers, Feed the Swamp Monsters
How little Donald Trump cares about workers, and how much more he values corporations, is shown by his plan to fix the pandemic’s disastrous economic impact.
The biggest part of the stimulus plan is a payroll tax holiday that will reduce Social Security and Medicare taxes by $500 billion. Unless other taxes are used to finance Social Security and Medicare it sets up the two biggest social safety nets, already tattered, to completely fall apart.
Then there’s $50 billion in Small Business Administration relief for small business. Problem is, big companies can legally qualify for small business benefits through subsidiaries. It’s a trick long employed, for example, by the Kochs who control one of the world’s largest fortunes. We have yet to see what safeguards, if any, would prevent such exploitation.
Airlines would get $58 billion in welfare.
And jobless workers? A separate package would provide $100 billion, which sounds like a big number until you consider the scope of the job loss problem. American workers gross about $150 billion per week, IRS Table 1.4 shows.
Distribute $100 billion equally to the 168 million or so people who earn from $1 to more than $100 million in annual wages and it’s not enough to replace a week’s wages.
Bankers first, American workers last is not a Trump-era creation. But it is promoted with gusto. And it contradicts the core promise on which Trump beguiled almost 63 million people into casting ballots for him.
–David Cay Johnston
Worries for the Homeless
Homeless advocates in Springfield, Mo., who operate a shelter for men that only opens when the temperature is expected to drop below freezing, said the men need to find someplace else to stay because of the coronavirus.
The shelter at the East Sunshine Church of Christ, which says it tries to follow Christ’s “example of love and service to others,” said it was following the Springfield City Council’s prohibition on gatherings of 10 or more. The council exempted educational institutions, businesses and day-care facilities.
Four people have tested positive so far for COVID-19 in Greene County, Mo.
The shelter typically has about 85 homeless men on nights when the temperature drops below 32. The bodies of two homeless men were found last month in Springfield. Temperatures are predicted to drop below freezing Friday and Saturday nights.
Both of Missouri’s Republican senators, Roy Blunt and Josh Hawley, live in the Springfield area. The James River Church, which is affiliated with the Assemblies of God and has a weekly attendance of more than 15,000 people, held services last weekend, saying it had the “blessing” of city, county and health officials.
Building up Ventilator Manufacture
With only about 180,000 ventilators in U.S. hospitals, public health officials are warning about serious shortages for an expected surge of COVID-19 respiratory patients.
Forbes Magazine talked with ventilator manufacturers, who sapid there are about 62,000 available now and another estimated 99,000 obsolete units that could be used in an emergency. Of course, those are also being sought by hospitals in other countries as well, particularly Italy and China. The U.S. military is coughing up another 2,000 units, according to news reports.
Manufacturers say they can ramp up, but it will take some time. “We could increase production five-fold in a 90- to 120-day period,” says Chris Kiple, chief executive of Ventec Life Systems, a Washington State ventilator maker told Forbes. “The time for action by the government is now,” says Kiple. The disease “is most likely to get worse next fall.”
What is peculiar is that Donald Trump has suggested that it may be quicker for individual states to make arrangements for ventilators than the federal government. NEW York Gov. Andrew Cuomo says that clearly, the federal government has more weight to use toward a coordinated response.
–Terry H. Schwadron
Don’t Forget the Children
Advocates for a federal program that helps feed young children in low-income families are asking Congress to help those families continue to be able to buy food during the pandemic.
The House approved H.R. 6201, Families First Coronavirus Response Act, 363-40 which would waive requirements that mothers and children be present at health clinics to be enrolled in the program, Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children.
Requiring that the children and their mothers be present helps prevent fraud, but that requirement now could help the coronavirus pandemic spread among low-income families and healthcare workers. The Senate is now considering the Families First Act which also includes expanding unemployment benefits and guaranteeing all Americans can get free testing.
How the Virus Is Playing Out in New York City
Newly diagnosed cases include a Bronx schoolteacher and a woman living in a city shelter, sending other shelter residents into quarantine. This raises the question of what to do about the homeless, as questions of a more restrictive lockdown loom.
Subway and bus workers are demanding the same access to coronavirus testing as emergency medical employees. Construction seems to be continuing, prompting calls for limitations on building projects to protect workers, including nonunion immigrant laborers. More city services are turning to phone and online systems, but New Yorkers are not recognizing that fact and showing up anyway at social services offices. Hotels are beginning to close.
Parole hearings on Rikers Island came to a halt after a team of public defenders refused to attend the gatherings, which are held in small confines. Meanwhile, the Board of Correction, overseers of city jails, are reviewing whether some prisoners can be released from their high-risk infection sites. Meanwhile, city schools are scrambling for 300,000 students to start formal homeschooling next week. And, in one of the classic New York City moves, alternate street parking has been suspended to keep homebound residents from leaving their homes to rotate locations of their cars. –THS