“When we took office 45 days ago, I promised the American people that help was on the way.
Today, I can say we’ve taken one more giant step forward in delivering on that promise that help is on the way,” President Joe Biden, March 6.
On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization announced that the world was experiencing a pandemic. Since then, the novel coronavirus called COVID-19 has killed 2.69 million people worldwide, over 545,000 of them (20 percent of the world’s deaths) in the U.S.
COVID-19 has cost lives and created an economic catastrophe. It’s cost workers their jobs and children their education. It’s kept families apart, preventing them from celebrating birthdays, graduations, weddings, and even preventing families from gathering to mourn their dead.
To combat this virus, mitigating protocols such as masks and social distancing were implemented. Vaccines were developed so life could someday return to normal.
In the U.S., Operation Warp Speed, created by former President Trump, helped accelerate the development of these vaccines. Once the vaccines were approved, a national distribution program was developed. We are now vaccinating nearly 3 million people a day. We are seeing the beginning of the end, if everyone cooperates.
It’s estimated that 70 percent of the population needs to be vaccinated to create the herd immunity necessary for a return to normal life. Unfortunately, millions of Republicans are refusing to do this, apparently thinking getting vaccinated is a political statement.
Just as Trump never aggressively promoted masks, he hasn’t promoted getting vaccinated. Interestingly, in January, Trump got vaccinated secretly before he left the White House. A scant 15 percent of Republican voters were aware of this. (Newsweek, March 10)
In contrast, every other living ex-president got vaccinated live on television. If Trump had publicized his vaccination, millions of his followers would have followed his lead and be getting vaccinated now, helping the country recover much more quickly. I hope these people will realize this and do the right thing.
The pandemic affected both our health and our economy, so on March 27, 2020, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, a $2.2 trillion bill, was signed into law to alleviate the economic disruption. In this bill, people got direct payments and $600 per week was added to unemployment benefits.
Small businesses received money to maintain their payroll for laid-off workers. Hospitals received money for equipment for health care workers. Coronavirus testing was covered. State and local governments received $150 billion total.
The CARES Act provided relief for millions of people, but that relief had a deadline when millions would lose the help they still needed. To continue helping Americans, another relief bill, the American Rescue Plan, was proposed by President Biden and Democrats in Congress. The provisions of both were very similar, but Republicans decided to oppose the ARP, despite the fact that 70 percent of Americans approve of it. The bill passed and was signed into law on March 11, 2021, almost exactly one year after the CARES Act.
The ARP provides numerous benefits, including free COVID testing and vaccinations, emergency housing assistance, payments to state, local and tribal governments, and small business assistance. Over 85 percent of households will get direct payments, and 11 million Americans will have their unemployment benefits extended.
Nevada will receive nearly $4 billion of economic relief, with $945 million of that going to local governments. This money will help make up for the seven to 14 percent of revenues lost during the pandemic. (Taxfoundation.org)
One relief program is the Pandemic Emergency Technical Support (PETS), which will help
small businesses and non-profits respond to the problems from the pandemic. Another program, the CARES Housing Assistance Program (CHAP), provides assistance to thousands of renters and small landlords, to secure housing and prevent a wave of homelessness.
An additional $1.1 billion will go to Nevada schools, to enable them to reopen safely and provide additional help to students who need it. Tens of thousands of Nevadans will receive increased health insurance premium subsidies, to ensure they have access to quality health care. (Center for American Progress, Feb. 26)
In his speech celebrating the passage of the ARP, Biden reviewed some of what Americans have suffered this year. “Millions of people out of work through no fault of their own... Food bank lines stretching for miles…. Families facing the threat of eviction.” But he also emphasized his promise that help was on the way. He is keeping that promise.
Jeanette Strong, whose column appears every other week, is a Nevada Press Association award-winning columnist. She may be reached at email@example.com.