Capital Region

Foss: More COVID relief needed

The U.S. Capitol building in Washington on Aug. 22, 2020.
The U.S. Capitol building in Washington on Aug. 22, 2020.

“I didn’t think this would last this long.”

I’ve heard this observation frequently in recent weeks.

Back in March, most people assumed the pandemic would be under control fairly quickly, and that life would soon return to normal. That’s not what happened, of course. Six months later, we’re still dealing with COVID-19 rules and regulations. Disruptions to our daily lives that once seemed unthinkable have become normalized.

I’m sick of it.

I’m sure you are, too.

Sadly, though, COVID-19 is still with us — and will be for some time.

On Friday, Dr. Anthony Fauci predicted that life won’t get back to normal again until late 2021 — a pronouncement that made my heart sink. I don’t know whether Fauci’s right — I hope that he isn’t.

What’s clear is that we’re in this for a much-longer-than-anticipated haul, and that we need to find ways to minimize the damage to industries and individuals who are already struggling.

The first stimulus package passed by Congress, in March, helped prevent true economic collapse.

But a number of the bill’s key provisions have since expired — perhaps Congress, like the rest of us, believed coronavirus would be a short-term problem — and many workers and businesses face an uncertain future.

Unfortunately, Congressional leaders have been unable to reach an agreement on a second stimulus package. Here are some areas where the need for help is urgent — and elected officials could make a difference, if they chose.

  • The restaurant industry has been battered by the pandemic, and in one recent poll, two out of three New York state eateries said they’re likely to close by the end of the year without assistance.

That would be awful — and devastating to local communities that depend on thriving restaurants to bring life and excitement to downtown. In the Northeast, colder temperatures are on the horizon, which means outdoor dining will soon cease to be a viable option, and indoor dining remains limited to 50 percent capacity.

One federal bill that deserves consideration is the RESTAURANTS Act of 2020, which would provide $120 billion to fund grants to bars and restaurants to cover payroll, rent, benefits and other costs.

  • The arts industry has also been hard-hit by COVID.

If you’ve been wondering what a world without live music, theater, movies and other entertainment looks like, we’re living in it, or in something close to it. And it leaves a lot to be desired.

The arts make our communities more vibrant and fun, and they have a big economic impact. It will benefit everyone if darkened theaters, concert halls and other venues are in a position to reopen once it’s deemed safe, which means getting them the help they need is a must.

  • Moratoriums on rent have prevented thousands from getting evicted.

But it doesn’t mean those payments won’t eventually come due, which means evictions are likely to surge when the moratoriums are lifted.

For many families, this would be an absolute calamity, disrupting their lives in costly and harmful ways. Studies have shown, for example, that children who experience eviction are more likely to miss school and struggle as adults.

Preventing this requires helping those who can’t make rent.

Some aid has already been provided, in the form of subsidies that are paid directly to landlords, but more will almost certainly be needed. Keeping families housed is good for everyone, and ought to be prioritized when rent moratoriums expire.

The bottom line is that COVID-19 is a long-term problem, and it’s going to require longer-term solutions.

And while I’m skeptical that our elected officials can deliver them, I’d like to think the ongoing struggles of American families and businesses will prompt the kind of big, creative thinking we so desperately need.

Reach Sara Foss at [email protected] Opinions expressed here are her own and not necessarily the newspaper’s.

Categories: Opinion, Sara Foss

One Comment

William Marincic

You better tell your fellow democrats in the House. Pelosi and the Democrats will not sit down to the table unless they get their $2 trillion for failing cities, they don’t care about the people, they feel that this hurts Trump more than it hurts them so they won’t come up with a new stimulus bill.

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