As fears surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak continue to cause turmoil in the financial markets, the Trump administration is planning a stimulus package, hoping to offset the effects of economic downturn. But with a health crisis as the culprit, the aid could look quite different from packages in the past, when financial systems were the source of chaos.
Louise Sheiner is a senior fellow of economic studies at The Brookings Institution. She spoke with “Marketplace” host Kai Ryssdal about what an economic stimulus plan would need today, despite the cost.
“If we let this thing get into a very bad economic outcome, that’s a huge downside,” Sheiner said. “The cost of doing too much is just not that very high right now with interest rates so low.”
Click the audio player above to hear the interview.
COVID-19 Economy FAQs
What’s the outlook for vaccine supply?
Chief executives of America’s COVID-19 vaccine makers promised in congressional testimony to deliver the doses promised to the U.S. government by summer. The projections of confidence come after months of supply chain challenges and companies falling short of year-end projections for 2020. What changed? In part, drugmakers that normally compete are now actually helping one another. This has helped solve several supply chain issues, but not all of them.
How has the pandemic changed scientific research?
Over the past year, while some scientists turned their attention to COVID-19 and creating vaccines to fight it, most others had to pause their research — and re-imagine how to do it. Social distancing, limited lab capacity — “It’s less fun, I have to say. Like, for me the big part of the science is discussing the science with other people, getting excited about projects,” said Isabella Rauch, an immunologist at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland. Funding is also a big question for many.
What happened to all of the hazard pay essential workers were getting at the beginning of the pandemic?
Almost a year ago, when the pandemic began, essential workers were hailed as heroes. Back then, many companies gave hazard pay, an extra $2 or so per hour, for coming in to work. That quietly went away for most of them last summer. Without federal action, it’s mostly been up to local governments to create programs and mandates. They’ve helped compensate front-line workers, but they haven’t been perfect. “The solutions are small. They’re piecemeal,” said Molly Kinder at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. “You’re seeing these innovative pop-ups because we have failed overall to do something systematically.”
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