URBAN AGENDA - Trump Nightmare is Over: Now Congress Must Pass COVID Stimulus Bill
David R. Jones, Esq., President and CEO of the Community Service Society of New York | 11/12/2020, midnight
The nightmare is over. Donald Trump lost the presidency and Joe Biden is poised to reoccupy the White House, focused on the urgent need to right this country’s course. His victory is due – in large part – to women voters, particularly women of color. And there is little doubt that Trump and his supporters will put up a stink about his leaving office.
The nationwide celebrations of Biden’s complicated election victory represent a coming to terms with the day-to-day trauma of our lives under Trump. We have begun to heal. We are trying to understand it, especially the fact that so many Americans supported a president indifferent to the pandemic and unparalleled in his tacit support for racism and divided government.
Now it’s time to snap out of it and face reality: We must have passage of a major relief bill and adopt a clear pro-science national strategy to control COVID-19. The coronavirus is spreading rapidly across the country, the body count is growing, and hospitals are strained. Millions of people are unemployed, face eviction, struggle to put food on the table and desperate for help – white people and people of color, the poor and the working poor, women and families with children.
Trump, House Democrats and Senate Republicans must break their stalemate to provide immediate emergency relief to Americans before the long and potentially deadly winter takes hold. Trump, the thinking goes, has little incentive to sign a big spending bill on the way out of the door because the stock market is doing well, and unemployment is below nine percent. Some may think it is better for Democrats to hold out until January, after Biden takes office.
No, Democrats must avoid any hesitation to demand bold relief legislation just because the debate over economically costly measures has so bitterly divided the country. They also must ignore the election results that show Trumpism made surprising gains among Latinos, African-Americans and Muslims, and across middle-class America. Certainly, if there was ever going to be a Democratic blowout election, this was it. But a sweeping repudiation of Trump did not materialize.
However, the focus must be on winning approval of substantial COVID-19 relief during Trump's lame-duck period for the next two and a half months. This could be one of the most treacherous periods in American history, and it is no time for Democrats to worry about their future political fortunes. They must bring the fight to Republicans and the astonishingly smug and mean-spirited Trump. He can still do lots of damage.
The stakes are dire. The virus has killed more than 235,000 people in the country, and total confirmed coronavirus cases have surpassed nine million. Pain and suffering is on the rise as new coronavirus infections climb in 42 states, hospitalizations increase and deaths tick up. The seven-day rolling average for deaths from COVID-19 reached 1,210 on November 6th, according to Johns Hopkins University researchers. Since the start of November, we have averaged more than 100,000 new coronavirus cases a day.
An estimated 735,000 New York City households have lost employment income as a result of COVID-19, according to New York University. The lion’s share of households facing eviction and hunger are clustered in the Bronx, Queens and Brooklyn. The New School’s Center for New York City Affairs placed true unemployment as high as 32.7 percent. Remote learning has been disastrous for many of the city’s 1.1 million schoolchildren.
Governor Cuomo has deployed the National Guard to New York City airports to check that arriving travelers have proof of a negative COVID-19 test. Hotels are struggling. More than 25,000 hotel employees have been out of work for more than six months, making the industry one of the hardest hits in the city. Also, Broadway theaters remain closed until next year, emblematic of the challenges New York City’s tourist industry faces.
Untold numbers of families have been left in the lurch without government stimulus and extinguished unemployment benefits. Without federal aid, state and local governments face a future of deep cuts and layoffs. We need a sizable relief bill this year. We need it now. Our leaders must find a way to work together in a bipartisan manner. It’s time to stop the fighting and do something for the collective good.
What the election results mean, what voters were saying, and the implications of Donald Trump’s presidency can be debated in the days, weeks and months ahead. You can speculate if a Biden victory results in a huge letdown in the midterm elections in 2022. You can even wonder about the trajectory of the progressive coalition of women, African Americans, young Whites, Latinos and Asians in cities and suburbs and small towns. Those are all conversations for another day, after we provide help and relief to those in need.
David R. Jones, Esq., is President and CEO of the Community Service Society of New York (CSS), the leading voice on behalf of low-income New Yorkers for more than 170 years. The views expressed in this column are solely those of the writer. The Urban Agenda is available on CSS’s website: www.cssny.org.