Fears grow as prospects for financial relief recede
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Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell warned this week of economic tragedy should Congress fail to provide additional relief for Americans suffering in the pandemic recession. With additional stimulus in doubt, many are growing increasingly worried.
Chester Englander, an orchestra percussionist living in Ohio, was unemployed for much of this year, and so was his musician wife. They have two small children. And he was getting $600 a week in federal unemployment benefits from April to July.
“Once the [federal unemployment] was gone and our savings vanished, quickly I added $6,000 of credit card debt to my one card,” he said. “It was clear things were deteriorating incredibly fast.”
He’s used the credit card to pay for food, mortgage and utilities. His parents, in their 70s, recently had to pitch in.
There doesn’t seem to be any help on the way for the millions of Americans who are suffering. Some are going deeper into debt. And many are dipping into their savings to get by.
Like Chris Dancy, a health consultant in Texas who has been unemployed since the pandemic began.
“I mean, our savings was eviscerated,” he said. “Even with mortgage deferment and lots of plans, you can’t stop your spending fast enough.” His husband is a school teacher who is still working. But with only one income, Dancy is nervous about the future.
So is Cristobal Moris, who has had to defer his dream of buying a house. He works in the New York film industry and was without income for much of the year.
Moris is employed again, but as the city sees a new rise in COVID-19 cases, he said, “My biggest fear right now is if we have another shutdown in the next month and there is no additional government assistance. Then we definitely will have to go start tapping into our savings again.”
Moris said he’s always tried to set money aside for a rainy day. But he’s worried about how many more rainy days he and his family will have to weather.
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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