Updated: May 11, 2021
In President-Elect Biden’s plan, we are thrilled to finally see an administration that aims to meet this critical moment. After months of inadequate attention to the pandemic and our people’s economic situation it is refreshing to see a robust plan with a clear focus on The People, that seems to attempt to understand the severity of the crisis, and lays out a distinct path forward with leadership and empathy.
For 6 months now, millions of unemployed and underemployed people have needed further support to survive this crisis. The December bill slapped a band-aid on a gaping wound. Due to the extreme delay in action, people are still waiting for their states to implement these changes and extensions, falling into increasing debt and insecurity. Biden's plan focuses much of its attention on getting Americans back on their feet and we are glad to see that. We are especially thankful for the inclusion of many items on our mission of asks, including a direct aid check, healthcare subsidies, rent relief, reinstated paid leave, food assistance, eviction moratorium and mortgage forbearance extensions, funding for state and local governments, small business aid, and a comprehensive COVID plan.
Most notably, of course, we are glad to see unemployment insurance boosted by an additional $100 and all programs extended until at least September. We have encouraged and will continue to push Congress and the Biden administration to further pursue the idea of using economic triggers to tier off benefits after September and we urge them to consider these triggers carefully. Due to the number of excluded individuals, the standard calculations for unemployment rates are not an accurate measurement of joblessness or workforce struggle in this pandemic. In December, the official unemployment rate was 6.7%, but when all programs were taken into consideration the actual rate was 11.8%; and this number doesn’t take into account widespread underemployment. In creating these triggers we must be aware of the full picture. We must wait until it is safe to go back to work for all people, especially considering high risk workers, parents, and workers in face to face industries, like live events and entertainment, that require large crowds.
While we commend this plan and will advocate for all of our legislators to assist their constituents by writing it into legislation and voting yes, we are surprised to see a major element missing. Americans needed support they weren’t receiving so we demanded it at the ballot box, handing the Democrats full control of the Legislative and Executive branches. This plan seems to disregard the 5+ months of inaction prior to the elections. The end of the weekly $600 unemployment boost in July began a financial spiral for millions of unemployed Americans, who fell behind on rent and utility payments as they struggled to make ends meet on state UI/PUA payments alone. Some have been attempting to survive on less than $44/week. Nearly half of those on UI have been getting by on less than a quarter of what they received prior to the pandemic, plunging over 42 million people below the poverty line. In one of the richest nations in the world, this is an unacceptable outcome of this crisis.
The new administration and Congress can't aim to “Rescue” unemployed and underemployed Americans without acknowledging and providing a solution for the 5+ months of government inaction that plummeted people into financial insecurity and massive debt. More aid to struggling workers was proposed by both parties in every piece of legislation in the fall, yet our government failed to come together to pass anything until December. Americans should not and cannot bear the financial burden of their inaction. We hope, as Congress turns this plan into legislation, our elected officials choose to #SaveOurWorkers and include a retroactivity solution for all of the people facing dire consequences because of government inaction.
What's Next For Our Community?
Biden’s plan is just that, a plan. It is not a bill. It is Biden's proposal for how we move forward, but it must now be debated and written into legislation by Congress. This means we all have an opportunity and a responsibility to make our voices heard. All of us influence what is included in that legislation and whether it gets passed. Advocate for what you need from your Senators and Representative.
As a community, we have two jobs.
We push for a retroactivity solution. We need constituents to reach out directly to their representatives and sign our petition here so that the needs are included in a bill. We have written a #SaveOurWorkers proposal and are already in conversation with legislators about it.
While we advocate for improvement, we also must understand that this future bill may not pass at all. We need to tell our legislators to BOTH draft the legislation AND vote to pass it.
Stay tuned for more action items from ExtendPUA on both of these points.
To the people saying, "Yes, we need retroactivity, but it's never going to happen." we encourage you not to accept less than you need from the government. Our meetings with legislators are confirming that it CAN happen with enough vocal support from constituents. We understand the discouragement many of us feel due to waiting for morsels of relief for months, but every bite we’ve gotten has been directly due to the advocacy of unemployed workers and our allies. It may not happen, but it definitely won't happen if we don't advocate for it.
Sign the petition here. And follow us on social media for daily actions @ExtendPUA.
Thank you for all you have done and continue to do.
We are with you.
Stephanie, Grant, and The ExtendPUA.org Team
Donate to help us continue this work: ExtendPUA.org/donate
We were thrilled to hear the outline for President-Elect Biden’s plan for COVID relief. After months of inadequate attention to the pandemic and the struggle individuals are facing, it is refreshing to see a robust plan with a clear focus on The People. However, we cannot “Rescue” our millions of unemployed and underemployed workers without acknowledging they have been without sufficient relief for the last 5+ months. We are in incredibly financially unstable situations & deep debt and we will not recover if we are expected to move forward, dragging that debt behind. Americans should not bear the financial burden of Congress’ inaction.
Fortunately this plan is a proposal, not a bill. It is a great foundation. Now it is up to Congress. This means we all have an opportunity and a responsibility to make our voices heard. Tell your elected officials what you support from the bill or they may cut it. At ExtendPUA.org, we will be both supporting this proposal and pushing for more, including retroactivity, to be included. We will need your help. More actions will be announced on our social media in the coming weeks, but we start with these two that will help us in our current conversations with legislators.
Sign the Petition for Retroactivity. ExtendPUA.org/petition
Share your Story with us. ExtendPUA.org/sharestories