When the coronavirus pandemic hit the U.S. in March, Congress reacted swiftly. On March 11, WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic. March 17th, President Trump asked Congress to expedite emergency relief checks to Americans as part of an economic stimulus package. The CARES Act, the largest economic recovery package in history, was signed into law on March 27th.
Over the past seven months, Republicans and Democrats have worked to deliver a second stimulus package, but negotiations have failed at every pass. In May, Democrats originally proposed a $3 trillion stimulus package called the HEROES Act. Republicans countered with a $1 trillion stimulus package, called the HEALS Act. Months of negotiations have gone by since then and the two parties still have not been able to find a common ground.
This is not to say that something of this magnitude should, or could, be done hastily. We are talking about trillions of dollars, and how best to use this money to ease the suffering of millions of Americans. By definition, Republicans and Democrats will always have different priorities and values, which ultimately is a positive. A two-party system provides balance and is good for democracy.
But as the seasons change and the air gets cooler, now has to be the time to stop the politics, find a compromise and attain bipartisan support for a second stimulus package. The evidence is found in three increasing numbers.
1: 8,000,000+ – Total US coronavirus cases
U.S. cases of the novel coronavirus topped 8 million this week. This is a dramatic increase of over 1 million in less than a month. Experts have warned of the probability for an increase in cases coming up due to multiple colliding forces: college campuses opening, K-12 students returning to school and pandemic fatigue.
Sadly, we have become almost numb to staggering COVID-19 cases. But this number comes in at a critical time. Epidemiologists warn that as the cooler weather approaches, people will be moving indoors where the virus can be more easily spread.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, warned the public on “Good Morning America” that entering into the fall and winter with coronavirus cases surging in 37 states is a dangerous position to be in.
“The issue is that as we enter, as we are now, the cooler season of the fall, and ultimately the coldest season of the winter, you don’t want to be in that compromised position where your baseline daily infection is high, and you’re increasing as opposed to going in the other direction,” he said, adding, “So we’ve really got to double down on the fundamental public health measures that we talk about every single day, because they can make a difference.”
2: 163,735 – U.S. businesses that have closed since March 1st.
The impact of COVID-19 on small businesses is devastating. The September 2020 Yelp Economic Impact Report revealed that an estimated 163,735 businesses have closed in the U.S. since March 1 due to the impact of the coronavirus. The numbers represent an increase of 23% since July 10, when the number closures was at 132,580. The number of businesses whose closures have become permanent have reached 97,966.
A new report from Babson’s Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program further states that 88% of U.S. small business owners have exhausted their Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan, and 32% of loan recipients have been forced to layoff employees or cut wages as a result of exhausting their loan funding.
“Small businesses provide half of all private sector jobs in the U.S. and an even larger percentage in many underserved communities,” said Babson Professor Richard Bliss, National Academic Director of Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses. “They also provide needed goods and services to communities not served by large companies.”
3: 898,000 – last week’s first-time jobless claims.
Again, we are becoming used to seeing unemployment numbers in the millions, so this number alone probably isn’t shocking to anyone. The problem lies in the trend. This is up 53,000 from the prior week. Although weekly claims have fallen dramatically since peaking at 6.9 million in March, the improvements have slowed in recent weeks — and now are going backwards.
According to Bankrate.com’s senior economic analyst Mark Hamrick, some of this increase is coming from key states, including Florida, Texas, New York, New Jersey, Illinois and Georgia
“There is risk of stagnation in the coming months as layoffs mount, and more businesses struggle or fail,” Hamrick says. “Federal Reserve officials don’t expect to see so-called full employment again until 2023.” Bankrate’s survey of economists indicated that the unemployment rate will remain elevated through the first half of next year.
A final number: 66. We have 66 days until the official start of winter. We are about to enter a season that most experts warn will cause COVID-19 to spread faster. As we wait for more relief, these numbers are going in the wrong direction. An economic stimulus package is needed now, and would allow us to enter this period stronger and better prepared.