According to a recent study by the Aspen Institute, up to 40 million Americans faced eviction towards the end of this year, no doubt due to the financial impact of COVID-19. As federal resources for unemployment and additional stimulus came to a complete halt, millions of Americans and small businesses are fighting to survive amid this widespread, government-mandated lockdown. To make matters worse, nearly 100,000 businesses that temporarily shut down because of the pandemic are now permanently out of business.
While Congress fell into the dark abyss of hyperpartisan bickering, Americans of every race and political party affiliation continued to struggle. Their communities have been forever changed by the businesses that closed their doors. For some, it has been a recurring nightmare that never ends no matter how hard you pinch yourself. However, even the self-imposed demi-gods that we call our congressmen and congresswomen should have a moment of mercy. That mercy comes in the form of another COVID-19 relief package to help struggling Americans and small businesses.
The original proposed bill, which was over 5,000 pages long, included $600 stimulus checks for Americans, $300 in weekly unemployment supplements and $284 billion in small business loans, also known as the PPP program, which helped keep many small businesses afloat following the initial lockdowns in early 2020. While the PPP stimulus is certainly helpful for small businesses, President Trump voraciously objected to the $600 stimulus amount and demanded for $2,000 checks. House Republicans initially rejected the measure, but they have now come around to Trump’s demand and have joined their Democratic colleagues in passing the amended bill. With the bill headed to the U.S. Senate, all eyes are on Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has started to break rank from Trump. Hopefully, however, this will be a victory for Trump and, most importantly, a victory for millions of American families.
There remains one question: What happens when this money runs out? With the threat of a new strain of COVID-19 from the U.K., one that doctors already warn could be lurking in the U.S. undetected and awaiting discovery in some unfortunate soul, mass panic could result and another shutdown of the U.S. economy could occur, putting us closer to the brink of economic collapse.
While Americans are thankful for relief, I can’t help but wonder how long it will last. There are so many, particularly those in our rural and urban areas, who are truly going to have a difficult time. Some will be forced to stretch funds while looking for work from businesses that might otherwise have hired them, businesses that are now fighting to stay afloat and doing everything to keep their current employees on the payroll.
Perhaps this is a spiritual dilemma; perhaps COVID-19 is a test to our national and global humanity. Is there something that we should learn at this moment? I believe firmly that there is, and as we prepare for the possibility that things could get worst, we must humble ourselves to our vulnerability as human beings. Perhaps before COVID, that was easier said than done, but I think that the recent rampant loss of life has humbled us all. How can anyone take life for granted after what we’ve gone through, especially with the looming possibility of more? This reality should force us all to our knees to give praise, thanks and glory to the almighty.
As you move forward with a second round of relief from Congress, preserve what you can and stock up on essentials because it’s possible that the worst is yet to come. It’s possible that while the relief is better late than never, we could realize that it’s not enough. We may soon realize that some resources aren’t as finite as we once thought. But the question again, as I’ve alluded to throughout this column is: Are we ready, or is it too late?