The government’s failure to provide economic relief is killing people

December 2, 2020 Vox

When Covid-19 began spreading across the United States this spring, the federal government put in place a series of protections to help workers and families weather the economic impact.

Then, one by one, the government took them all away.

Expanded unemployment insurance, which helped keep millions of laid-off workers out of poverty, expired at the end of July. Federal stimulus checks were issued to millions of taxpayers once, beginning in April, but never again. The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans meant to keep small businesses afloat expired in August, even as many of those businesses faced a second surge in cases.

And it’s about to get a lot worse, with a host of benefits from student loan forbearance to the federal eviction moratorium set to expire at the end of December.

Many economists agree that the federal government’s insufficient economic protections are driving Americans — especially low-wage workers who have been hard-hit in the pandemic — further into poverty. But something else is also becoming clear: The lack of economic safeguards for Americans is making Covid-19 worse, too.

The latest evidence is a study showing that lifting state-level eviction moratoriums, which allowed landlords to once again kick out renters for nonpayment, was associated with an increase in Covid-19 infections. Between March and September, getting rid of the bans and allowing evictions to continue led to as many as 433,700 excess Covid-19 cases and 10,700 deaths, the researchers found.

Meanwhile, the lack of relief for small-business owners is forcing many to choose between closing their doors forever or staying open during the pandemic — and contributing to transmission rates. “They’re making heartbreaking decisions every day,” Lindsey Leininger, a public health educator and professor at Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business, told Vox.

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