COVID help not enough

Eimy Gonzalez, News Editor

Late March COVID-19 restrictions went into effect, plunging the country into a void of uncertainty. As small businesses and big corporations alike were forced to shut down with no clear date of reopening, much less reach full capacity, millions of people were left devasted by the lack of work and therefore lack of income.

Unemployment insurance applications peaked in the months following the shutdown, most of the population relying on federal and state assistance. Almost instantly following the initial shut down, a relieve package was issued to better supply laid off workers with benefits to survive such dark times. Beside the weeks of unemployment provided by the different states, the CARES act assisted with $1,200 payments to each adult and $500 for every child in the household. It also added a supplemental $600 on top of the weekly benefit amounts of unemployment stretching until the end of July, an extension of 13 weeks to collect UI benefits with a deadline of late December, The PUA program for people otherwise not eligible to collect unemployment benefits, as well as loans and grants for small and big businesses.

However, even if it seemed sufficient at the time, the money soon dried up. As the pandemic stretched on, this package did not seem as appealing down the road. After July, the population received a fatal blow to their financials, having to make do with $600 less in their weekly payments. Not only that, even if the 13-week extension expired until December, by early November there were people who had already exhausted all available benefits and were struggling to keep their home and provide food. Many had to confront the hungry faces of their children and worry for their future, living one week at a time.

With no clear end date for the pandemic, why should state and federal assistance have one? With the last of the benefits expiring, the population was pushed towards extreme conditions, some which will not be amended by a new stimulus package. In other situations, individuals are driven into returning to work, even under unsafe conditions, putting themselves and others at risk. Placing their need of survival above health. This should be out of the question; however, the sluggish movements of congress and the Trump administration to develop a new package at a timely manner has certainly placed a toll over the people.

Now, after finally reaching determination in late December, the population can look forward to receiving at least 11 more weeks of unemployment insurance with an additional $300 on top of their weekly amount. And yet, will it make a significant difference to those who became homeless, or became ill from seeking housing in shelters or by returning to work prematurely? Early assistance from federal and state funding would have made a distinction in the well-being of the country. After all, a country cannot be without its people.