Unemployed America is mad as hell and wants Congress to know it
Nearly six months into the shitshow that is America in coronavirus under Donald Trump, and there is no optimism, there is no goodwill, there is no benefit of the doubt among unemployed Americans for anyone in leadership. But especially Trump and the Republican Senate, which Sen. Mitch McConnell says won't be returning for another 10 or so days.
“I blame Mitch McConnell the most,” single father of two Shawn Gabriel, in Parma, Ohio, told Washington Post reporters Eli Rosenberg and Heather Long. “At least [Pelosi] was trying four months ago.” The reporting team talked to 20 people around the country who've lost their jobs in the pandemic, and ”all said they felt immense pressure to stay afloat without the extra $600, which expired at the end of July. Every person interviewed said they were furious at Washington policymakers for letting such a critical benefit lapse amid the nation’s worst economic crisis in a century.”
Most often, the reporters say, that anger was directed at Republicans, as it should be. But still, this is the prevailing sentiment toward Congress as a whole, from Madeleine Olson in Michigan: “To watch these people who never have to worry about a dollar in their lives, go on vacation for a month without even thinking about the fact that people are going to be homeless and dead at the end of it, because they want to take their vacation, it’s crushing.” The 27-year-old lost her job in March. “I don’t even know if they realize in Washington what’s going on, because they don’t see it,” she said.
To a large extent, they don't. The circles in which they travel, the people they talk to on a daily basis, are weathering this okay. The stock market is still strong (for now) and coronavirus physical distancing requirements have kept them mostly insulated from their constituents. There aren't the raucous, angry town meetings we've seen in the past. The urgency has dissipated. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi might still feel it, but she's not acting on it.
For now, she's got the benefit of the doubt, maybe, marginally. Trump's $400/week stunt with his executive action from early August isn't going to pan out. In most states it will only be $300, and so far just five states have started paying it, and that only goes to people who qualify for at least $100/week in state universal income. Many don't make that much. If all the states end up implementing it, there's only going to be enough in the FEMA fund Trump took the money from to last at most five weeks; possibly as few as three. That's how fast it could run out, but it could also take as long as six weeks for FEMA to approve some states' applications to get the money.
The House needs to come back in. Pelosi needs to be having votes every day on some aspect of coronavirus relief. They could pass the HEROES Act again. They could break it up into pieces and vote on different provisions of it every day. Democrats need to keep pressure on McConnell. Democrats need the millions of American people who feel utterly forgotten to know that they haven't been.
“Congress doesn’t understand. I don’t think they’ll ever understand,” single mom Jessica Williamson said. She's in Mississippi, and she and her two kids are living on about $350 a week. She's behind on her $800 rent already. “They don’t have to worry about living paycheck to paycheck.”