The U.S. Coronavirus relief plan: What American parents need to know


The new bill, the CARES Act, includes some helpful provisions. But it doesn't go far enough to protect families and small businesses from financial disaster.

To safeguard our children's future, we must we pressure politicians to prioritize the welfare of human beings. This is precisely the time when the government -- and the major media -- need to hear from parents like you.


© 2020 Gwen Dewar, Ph.D., all rights reserved

Call this an editorial. It's one I wish I didn't have to write. I will address current political events, and be informed by my own biases. But my intent is to call your attention to an urgent threat to American families. We need to make our voices heard.

On March 27th, the United States Congress passed a $2 trillion coronavirus relief bill -- the CARES Act.

So you might be thinking, help is on the way. I can focus on taking care of my kids -- making ends meet -- because the government is finally taking action.

I understand the feeling. I know how hard it is to keep up with the news when you've got children, especially young children.

But every parent needs to understand: This bill leaves individual human beings and small businesses with inadequate support. Many won't have enough money to pay their bills.

Regular people will be scrambling to get by; some will be running up credit card debt to meet basic expenses.

The small businesses that manage to hang on will still face potentially crippling financial problems, including a lack of cash to get operations back up to speed.

At the same time, the CARES Act permits for massive corporate bailouts with insufficient strings attached. For example, unlike small businesses -- which will get loans only on condition that they retain their employees -- corporations receiving federal aid will be permitted to fire employees.

What does it mean?

If we don't take further action, we'll emerge from the coronavirus pandemic with millions out of work, millions more owing months of back rent or mortgage payments, and the shuttering of small businesses throughout the country.

A small number of large corporations may end up as the country's primary employers.

Ordinary families will be set back for years, struggling just to achieve basic financial security, let alone save money to help their kids attend college.

All because we didn't do enough to help people -- individual humans and small business owners -- get through the coronavirus pandemic.

There were helpful provisions in the bill that Congress passed on March 27th, including these:

But the timing of direct payments will be too slow (up to four months) for some recipients. And more aid is needed to protect our children's future. Much more needs to happen to prevent the worst-case scenario.

So please don't tune out of the current politician situation. Even though your duties and burdens as a parent are wearing you down.

This is precisely the time when the government -- and the major media -- need to hear from parents like you.

Currently, the top 1% owns more wealth than the bottom 90% combined. The bottom 50% of Americans own just 1.3% of the nation's wealth (U.S. Federal Reserve 2020).

Many people working "essential jobs" are paid too little. Though I can't find any recent statistics, a study conducted in 2015 found that approximately 42% of American workers -- including cashiers, nursing assistants, janitors, warehouse workers, child care workers, and construction laborers -- were making less than $15.00 per hour (Tung et al 2015).

And according to a U.S. population survey conducted in 2018 (by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Census Bureau), 55% of households with kids under the age of 18 were making less than $75 thousand dollars a year.

To put this in perspective, economists calculate that a family of two adults and two children needs to make at least $79 thousand dollars a year to achieve basic financial security -- "to meet basic monthly expenses—such as housing, food, transportation, and child care expenses—and save for emergencies and retirement" (Suh et al 2018). 

If our government doesn't help ordinary people get through this crisis, many of us will slide further into economic insecurity. And that will create a bleaker future for everyone -- especially our kids.

More information about the coronavirus crisis

For more background on the pandemic, and what we can do about it, see my article, "Coping with Coronavirus." 

In addition, this Parenting Science article  "Coronavirus in children: Children get sick, too -- sometimes seriously so." 

Schools closed? Stuck at home with the kids, and feeling the pressure? There's a lot we can do to make the best of this crisis. But the first step is to stop pressuring ourselves with unrealistic expectations. Read my thoughts here.


References

Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, United States. 2020. "Distribution of Household Wealth in the U.S. since 1989" Table last updated March 20, 2020. Accessed 3/25/2020 from https://www.federalreserve.gov/releases/z1/dataviz/dfa/distribute/table/

Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Census Bureau. 2018. FINC-01. Selected Characteristics of Families by Total Money Income. Current Population Survey (CPS) Annual Social and Economic (ASEC) Supplement. Excel tablet accessed 3/27/2020 from:  https://www.census.gov/data/tables/time-series/demo/income-poverty/cps-finc/finc-01.html

Suh J, Clark J, and Hays J. 2018. Basic Economic Security in the United States: How Much Income Do Working Adults Need in Each State? Institute of women's policy research. Accessed on 3/27/2020 at https://iwpr.org/publications/best-us-2018/

Tung I, Lathrop Y, and Soon P. 2015. The growing movement for $15. National Employment Law Project. Downloaded on 2/27/2020 from: https://www.nelp.org/publication/growing-movement-15/

image of Capitol building by Rawpixel LTD / flickr

Content last modified 3/27/2020