“Today’s failure to deliver badly needed fiscal assistance to cities of all shapes and sizes is going to amount to increased job losses, decreased public safety and a greatly impaired economic recovery. Cities across the country have been struggling with budget shortfalls for months as a direct result of the pandemic, and hundreds of bipartisan mayors have been echoing the call to congressional and administration leaders for an economic lifeline in the form of immediate flexible fiscal relief. The victims of today’s failure will be the American people — residents in cities across the country — led by Republicans, Independents and Democrats — who will see critical services further reduced or eliminated entirely.” — U.S. Conference of Mayors
On the same day that Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell warned that the U.S. economy would face “tragic” consequences without additional federal stimulus, President Trump announced there would be no stimulus until after the election.
“I have instructed my representatives to stop negotiating until after the election when, immediately after I win, we will pass a major Stimulus Bill that focuses on hardworking Americans and Small Business,” he tweeted.
In response to his recklessness, the stock market plummeted.
He immediately backtracked, calling for a bill that would land $1,200 checks emblazoned with his name in voters’ mailboxes days before they cast their ballots, still refusing to entertain a comprehensive aid package.
“All the president wants is his name on a check,” said Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. “We’re here to honor our heroes, crush the virus, put money in the pockets of the American people beyond a check with his name on it.”
Last week, the House passed an updated version of the HEROES Act that includes support for small businesses; invests in testing, tracing, and treatment; and provides direct payments of $1,200 per taxpayer and $500 per dependent. Notably, it includes support for state and local governments — a sticking point for an administration that still thinks it can sabotage Democratic governors and mayors by withholding aid, even as the virus wrecks the economies of Republican-run states and cities as well.
Right now, 26 million Americans are receiving unemployment insurance — payments which were drastically slashed when the federal supplement expired on July 31. Those who lost their jobs early in the pandemic are about to see their benefits expire entirely.
Major companies including Disney, Allstate and two major airlines have announced plans to fire or furlough more than 60,000 workers.
At least 164,000 businesses have closed since March.
Between 10 million and 14 million renter households are behind on their rent, putting as many as 34 million people at risk of eviction.
And more than 1.2 million jobs in state and local governments have been lost as a result of falling revenues.
The President’s assessment of the situation? “Our economy is doing very well.”
From the vantage point of the wealthiest Americans, it may appear so. But, as Chairman Powell observed on Tuesday:
“The burdens of the downturn have not been evenly shared. The initial job losses fell most heavily on lower-wage workers in service industries facing the public — job categories in which minorities and women are overrepresented. … Combined with the disproportionate effects of COVID on communities of color, and the overwhelming burden of childcare during quarantine and distance learning, which has fallen mostly on women, the pandemic is further widening divides in wealth and economic mobility.”
Early in the pandemic, President Trump bafflingly retweeted a meme that compared him to Nero fiddling while Rome burned. In actively sabotaging the nation’s economic recovery, he’s doing worse than fiddling — he’s pouring gasoline on the fire.
Morial is president and CEO of the National Urban League.