The government needed to do more during the pandemic
The coronavirus pandemic intensified tension between public health and the economy due to the fact Americans were left to choose between financially supporting themselves or risk getting sick. The government did not do nearly enough to help its citizens during the pandemic.
According to Russell Stage Foundation, 24 percent of working Americans earn less than $8.70 an hour which is not enough a living wage. To add on, Americans work around 47 hours a week which is a lot more than many other countries around the world. In America, the work culture is focused on prioritizing jobs rather than personal health.
When things started closing around the country because of COVID-19, the lack of support people normally receive from the government and employers only made things worse.
Congress passed the CARES Act early on in the pandemic, which included giving money to colleges like UH that dispersed the aid to students. It also established an eviction moratorium. However, the money was not enough for some people even then.
People still had to pay for food, childcare, tuition and healthcare when they got sick. The costs lessened but with millions of people laid off and without insurance, it wasn’t enough.
Even though President Joe Biden created the American Rescue Plan, two stimulus checks were not enough to soften the blow of the pandemic.
To compare, Denmark offered financial support to companies to lessen the number of people who would have to be laid off, according to The Wall Street Journal. In America, companies were left to their own devices to decide on what to do with the employees which often involved layoffs.
To add on, unemployment benefits included a paycheck of $300 a week and once those unemployment checks ended, it didn’t improve conditions for the job market. In fact, economists saw a drop in employment, earnings and labor participation growth, according to Peter McCrory.
The jobs people are working do not pay them enough for the long hours they endure and once you cut off benefits, life only gets harder. People simply aren’t willing to work long hours at abusive and grueling jobs anymore, which may be why there is a worker shortage right now.
With the uncertainty the pandemic brings, people need the security of a well-paying job and the knowledge that their earnings are enough to support themselves and their families.
Many people were left to make a difficult choice during the pandemic once lockdowns were put into place. Instead of viewing the lockdown as a positive thing to protect public health, they were left fearful of the implications it would bring to their financial security.
That’s what makes the pandemic so difficult to overcome; although someone wants to stay at home to stay safe from the virus, they don’t have the money to support themselves or their family for more than a week.
Americans still aren’t through the rough part of the pandemic, it’s only just the beginning of finding the new normal that we all lost a few years ago. In order for health to be prioritized during this pandemic, governments should invest more in helping their citizens lead better, healthier lives.
Lockdowns would be successful if people were confident that their government would provide them with the resources needed for them to stay home. The government failed American citizens during the coronavirus pandemic.
Cindy Rivas Alfaro is a journalism freshman who can be reached at [email protected]