The United States Has Failed Its Most Vulnerable Citizens

More than six months after COVID-19 reached the country, there is still no safety net for high-risk people

Photo by Vladimir Soares on Unsplash

ALL VULNERABLE INDIVIDUALS should continue to shelter in place. Members of households with vulnerable residents should be aware that by returning to work or other environments where distancing is not practical, they could carry the virus back home. Precautions should be taken to isolate from vulnerable residents.

That’s the recommendation for any state that has not reached Stage 3 of the process — a level of control over the pandemic only reached in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Vermont, and Maine. In those states, high-risk individuals can begin limited socializing, but in the other 45 and Washington D.C., they should remain in lockdown.

1. Elderly individuals.

2. Individuals with serious underlying health conditions, including high blood pressure, chronic lung disease, diabetes, obesity, asthma, and those whose immune system is compromised such as by chemotherapy for cancer and other conditions requiring such therapy. (Source: White House Reopening Guidelines)

That second category includes a lot of people, many of whom don’t have the means to shelter in place without significant financial support. That’s a substantial reason for the horrific death toll in large urban areas such as New York City, New Orleans, Chicago, and Detroit.

Photo by Anaya Katlego on Unsplash

“The best way to stimulate the economy is from the bottom up — putting money into the pockets of lower-income people who will spend it. The worst way is from the top down — putting money into the pockets of wealthy people who will save it.” — Robert Reich, July 24, 2020

However, the Republicans are focused entirely on the unemployment rate, so they see the $600 as a “disincentive” for people to get jobs.

“We’re going to make sure that we don’t pay people more money to stay home than go to work.” — President Donald J. Trump, July 20, 2020

There’s a moral debate over not forcing people to work low-paying jobs to exist, but we can focus on it after the pandemic. Right now, we need a plan to make it economically feasible for high-risk individuals to stay home.

A Simple Proposal

I propose a $500/week payment to all at-risk people and a tax credit for any employer who lets their high-risk employees work from home.

  • Reward employers who find ways to allow vulnerable workers to perform their jobs from home.
  • Enhance unemployment benefits, so people on furlough have money to put back into the economy.
  • Institute a freeze on rents and mortgages and support the institutions that collect them.

Freelance writer and data scientist in Metro Detroit. Covered pro sports for NHL.com and the Associated Press before COVID-19. Mentally ill and not ashamed.

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