As Donald Trump sits back, tweets inciting calls to violence over overturning the 2020 election and makes threats as millions face eviction in the middle of winter and a raging pandemic; hunger; poverty (8 million have fallen into poverty just since July); the number of COVID-19 deaths surpass 330,000; every four days, a million more are infected (double the number just from Election Day, likely having much to do with Trump super-spreader rallies and forced in-person voting amid his sabotage of absentee voting); and Trump’s inaction or actual veto of bills that would provide COVID-19 relief and help fund vaccinations, and would cause the entire government to shut down, President-Elect Joe Biden is calling his refusal to sign the bill, passed with overwhelming and bipartisan majority, an “abdication of responsibility” that has “devastating consequences.” That’s an understatement. Here is Biden’s statement:
It is the day after Christmas, and millions of families don’t know if they’ll be able to make ends meet because of President Donald Trump’s refusal to sign an economic relief bill approved by Congress with an overwhelming and bipartisan majority.
This abdication of responsibility has devastating consequences. Today, about 10 million Americans will lose unemployment insurance benefits. In just a few days, government funding will expire, putting vital services and paychecks for military personnel at risk. In less than a week, a moratorium on evictions expires, putting millions at risk of being forced from their homes over the holidays. Delay means more small businesses won’t survive this dark winter because they lack access to the lifeline they need, and Americans face further delays in getting the direct payments they deserve as quickly as possible to help deal with the economic devastation caused by COVID-19. And while there is hope with the vaccines, we need funding to be able to distribute and administer them to millions of Americans, including frontline health care workers.
This bill is critical. It needs to be signed into law now. But it is also a first step and down payment on more action that we’ll need to take early in the new year to revive the economy and contain the pandemic — including meeting the dire need for funding to distribute and administer the vaccine and to increase our testing capacity.
In November, the American people spoke clearly that now is a time for bipartisan action and compromise. I was heartened to see members of Congress heed that message, reach across the aisle, and work together. President Trump should join them, and make sure millions of Americans can put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads in this holiday season.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo called on Congress to renew and expand federal support programs for unemployed Americans — many of which have expired or will end just days after Christmas. The programs provide critical benefits for millions of American families that have faced unemployment as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, including supplemental benefits for individuals and support for local and state governments. The Governor sent a letter to Congressional leaders urging them to act quickly as states across the country face another surge of infections, hospitalizations, and deaths while millions of Americans remain unemployed.
“The pandemic has not just impacted Americans’ health — it has also created an unprecedented economic crisis. As we enter the holiday season, and as states once again enact stronger measures to stop COVID, critical federal unemployment benefits are about to expire. Inaction from Washington is putting millions of Americans’ financial security at risk,” Governor Cuomo said.”Congress moved decisively this spring to address the economic impacts of the pandemic and should once again take action before the calendar year ends to bring badly needed support to millions of struggling Americans.”
Separately, Cuomo, who is also National Governors Association Chairman, and Arkansas Governor and NGA Vice Chairman Asa Hutchinson issued a statement regarding ongoing negotiations over a new coronavirus relief bill:
“Even as COVID-19 vaccine trials show remarkable results and the pandemic finish line is in sight, the danger the virus poses has never been greater. Today our country is seeing record-high cases, hospitalizations and deaths — every single state has been affected.
“It is time for Washington to step up and deliver desperately needed relief for their constituents. Governors are heartened that congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle and in both chambers are now talking with each other to find a way forward. We encourage leadership to stay at the bargaining table and work out a deal that delivers the critical relief to the American people.
“As an interim measure to address states immediate and pressing needs, we support the bipartisan framework proposed by Senator Joe Manchin, Senator Bill Cassidy and a bipartisan group of their colleagues as a response that would bring meaningful relief to those who are struggling; situate states to quickly, effectively and equitably implement their vaccination plans; and prime the economy to allow for a faster rebound.
“Governors have been on the front lines since the beginning of the pandemic, procuring lifesaving medical and personal protective equipment, establishing field hospitals, and providing economic relief to small businesses and workers. But this is a national crisis, cutting across geographic, economic and demographic lines, and it demands a national, bipartisan solution. Congress should not leave Washington for the holiday recess without enacting a much-needed COVID relief package. We look forward to working with Congress and the new Administration in the new year on a more comprehensive COVID relief package.”
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, New York State has paid more than $55 billion in unemployment benefits to 3.8 million New Yorkers — which represents more than 26 typical years’ worth of benefits. Nationwide, more than 20 million Americans are currently receiving unemployment benefits, including 12 million covered by programs that will expire on December 31, 2020. In New York, that includes 1.2 million current claims from New Yorkers receiving Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, which provides benefits for freelancers, self-employed workers, and others who do not typically qualify for traditional unemployment benefits, and 682,000 claims from individuals who are receiving 13 additional weeks of benefits under the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program after exhausting the 26 weeks of traditional benefits.
Here is Governor Cuomo’s full letter detailing the aid that is requested:
As you are well aware, the coronavirus has continued to spread across the country, with the United States entering what appears to be another surge of infections this fall. While disturbing, this increase is not surprising — experts told us that as temperatures fell, cases would increase, and those predictions have unfortunately come true.
The physical toll of the pandemic is well known: 12 million Americans have been infected and more than 250,000 have lost their lives.
But the pandemic has not just impacted Americans’ health — it has also created an unprecedented economic crisis with unheard of levels of unemployment across the nation. Since March, more than 68 million Americans have filed unemployment claims, representing over 42 percent of the nation’s workforce. Last week, the number of newly filed claims nationwide grew by 31,000, representing the first week-over-week increase after four weeks of decreasing claims.
Unlike the federal government’s response to the virus itself, Congress moved decisively this spring to address the economic impacts of the pandemic — supplying Americans with federally-funded stimulus checks, supplemental unemployment benefits, and benefits for freelancers, the self-employed, and others who are not typically covered by traditional unemployment insurance.
However, as we enter the holiday season — and as states once again enact stronger measures to stop the surge in cases, hospitalizations, and deaths — Washington’s inaction is putting millions of Americans’ financial security at risk.
When the CARES Act was passed in March, roughly 10 million Americans had filed for unemployment benefits during the pandemic — today, that number has increased by nearly 600%. At the time, the nation had only faced two weeks with unemployment claims above the pre-pandemic high of 695,000. Now, we have surpassed that level for 35 weeks straight.
Yet despite this worsening economic picture, many critical support programs that were put in place earlier this year have already expired and the few remaining ones are set to expire just days after Christmas. This is simply unacceptable and must be rectified.
The Senate and House must work to renew and expand federal unemployment benefits for Americans while supporting the state governments that are implementing these programs and disbursing the benefits.
The following programs should be extended or renewed through the end of the federal Fiscal Year 2021:
Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)— This program, which is set to expire on December 31, 2020, allows freelancers, self-employed individuals, and others who are not typically eligible for unemployment insurance to receive 46 weeks of federal benefits. As of the latest US DOL data, nearly 8.7 million Americans are currently receiving benefits under PUA.
Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC)— This program, which is also set to expire on December 31, 2020, provides an additional 13 weeks of federally-funded unemployment benefits to Americans who have exhausted state unemployment insurance. As of the latest US DOL data, nearly 4.4 million Americans are currently receiving benefits under PEUC.
Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC)— Created by the CARES Act, this program provided federal supplemental benefits of $600 per week to all unemployed Americans. After expiring in late July, this program was temporarily replaced with the Lost Wages Assistance program, which failed to adequately address the continuing needs of the American public, while causing more administrative work for states.
Federal Support for Shared Work— Shared work programs allow employers to keep staff partially-employed while still cutting costs. Rather than laying off their staff, a business is able to reduce all workers’ hours, with unemployment benefits replacing some or all of their lost wages. To encourage use of these programs, the federal government fully funded states’ shared work programs, but this support is set to expire on December 31, 2020.
Reimbursements for Local Government, Non-profit, and Tribal Employers— Recognizing the severe impact of the coronavirus pandemic on local governments, non-profit organizations, and tribal nations, the federal government agreed to reimburse half of unemployment benefits these employers paid out. That support is due to expire on December 31, 2020, putting further strain on organizations that are already struggling to stay afloat and provide needed services during this crisis.
Support for State Unemployment Insurance Trust Funds— Due to the unprecedented surge in unemployment insurance claims, states across the country have exhausted their unemployment insurance trust funds. Earlier this year, the Federal government allowed states to borrow to replenish their trust funds interest-free. Starting next year, those loans will begin accruing interest — even as unemployment levels remain at critically high levels. All states should be allowed to continue borrowing for their unemployment insurance trust funds without accruing interest next year. Further, the federal government must recognize the impact repaying these loans will have on businesses, especially already-struggling small businesses, and fully forgive all loans.
Cost-Sharing for Unemployment Insurance Administrative Costs— Every state’s unemployment insurance system has been tested by the pandemic response, and many state departments of labor have implemented multiple new federal programs using decades-old technology. The Federal government has so far paid half of these administrative costs — that should increase to 100 percent reimbursement, but at the bare minimum this cost sharing must continue. Failing to do so will significantly harm states’ abilities to support unemployed workers.
The United States of America’s economy remains in crisis. More than 20 million of our neighbors received some form of unemployment benefits during the week ending October 31st — over thirteen times the number receiving benefits this time last year.
Not extending these programs — which can largely be accomplished by passing the unemployment and workforce provisions of H.R. 925, the HEROES Act — is akin to abandoning millions of Americans in their time of need. Congress must take action before the calendar year ends, and anything less would be an abdication of your duty.
I look forward to your immediate attention to these matters.
Andrew M. Cuomo Governor, New York State Chair, National Governors Association
On Saturday, August 8, Trump signed four Executive Orders intended to substitute for Congressional Republicans compromising with Democrats on a relief package against the health and economic ravages of the coronavirus pandemic. In a vitriolic speech, delivered to a mini-rally assembled from among his Bedminister golf course members, he attacked the Democrats’ plan, threatened a stock market crash should Joe Biden become president, and promised to end the payroll tax (which funds Social Security) should he be elected.
Indeed, Trump delivered this campaign promise: to reduce income taxes and capital gains taxes (in order to goose the stock market), in effect robbing the US Treasury which is already over $25 trillion in debt with trillions added because of the 2017 GOP tax cuts and the trillions spent on COVID relief, much of it going to the wealthiest and best connected. Instead of providing aid to states and localities which have been devastated by depleted revenues and run-up in costs to address COVID-19, he put more of the burden on states to come up with his faux employment benefits (it requires 25% to be paid by states). Instead of funding election protection and the post office, he accused Democrats of stealing the election.
“The massive taxpayer bailout of badly run blue states we talked about — that’s one of the things they’re looking to do. Measures designed to increase voter fraud,” he told his adoring audience.
“You know what it’s about? Fraud. That’s what they want: fraud. They want to try and steal this election because, frankly, it’s the only way they can win the election.
“The bill also requires all states to do universal mail-in balloting — which nobody is — nobody is prepared for — regardless of whether or not they have the infrastructure. They want to steal an election. That’s all this is all about: They want to steal the election.”
Trump couldn’t resist attacking proposals for a Green New Deal: “And they want to do the Green New Deal, which will decimate our country and decimate — it’s ridiculous, too. It’s childish. I actually say the Green New Deal is childish. It’s for children. It’s not for adults.”
And when asked what happens if the states can’t pony up the 25% to continue the $400 (not $600) unemployment benefits (the 75% that the federal government would spend would be coming from the states’ share of the CARES Act funding), he said, “Well, if they don’t, they don’t…So I don’t think their people will be too happy.”
As for the reduction in unemployment benefits, Trump said, “this gives them a great incentive to go back to work.”
Questioned about the constitutionality of going around Congress, which has the sole “power of the purse,” Trump said, “This will go very [fast]– if — if we get sued. Maybe we won’t get sued. If we get sued, it’s somebody that doesn’t want people to get money. Okay? And that’s not going to be a very popular thing. “
Pressed whether a President should go around Congress “ and decide how money is collected and spent?” Trump retorted, “You ever hear the word ‘obstruction’? “yes,” the reporter replied. “You were investigated for that.”
Trump then replied, “They’ve obstructed. Congress has obstructed. The Democrats have obstructed people from getting desperately needed money.”
“But this is in the Constitution, Mr. President,” the reporter insisted.Asked why he keeps taking credit for Veterans Choice, which was passed in 2014 by the Obama Administration, Trump abruptly ended the press conference.
In reaction to Trump’s executive orders, Vice President Joe Biden, presumptive Democratic nominee for President, issued this statement: –Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Unable to deliver for the American people in a time of crisis, Donald Trump offered a series of half-baked measures today. He is putting Social Security at grave risk at a time when seniors are suffering the overwhelming impact of a pandemic he has failed to get under control. And make no mistake: Donald Trump said today that if he is re-elected, he will defund Social Security.
For months, Trump has golfed rather than negotiated, and sown division rather than pull people together to get a package passed. Now, instead of staying in Washington and working with Republicans and Democrats to reach a bipartisan deal, President Trump is at his golf club in New Jersey signing a series of dubious executive orders.
This is no art of the deal. This is not presidential leadership. These orders are not real solutions. They are just another cynical ploy designed to deflect responsibility. Some measures do far more harm than good.
One order is Donald Trump’s first shot in a new, reckless war on Social Security. Trump announced a payroll tax plan with no protections or guarantees — like the ones the Obama-Biden administration enforced a decade ago — that the Social Security Trust Fund will be made whole. And, Trump specifically stated today that if re-elected, he plans to undermine the entire financial footing of Social Security. He is laying out his roadmap to cutting Social Security. Our seniors and millions of Americans with disabilities are under enough stress without Trump putting their hard-earned Social Security benefits in doubt.
Another order brings cuts, chaos, and confusion to our system of unemployment insurance. Trump is unilaterally reducing the amount laid-off workers could receive. And he purports to provide these benefits until the end of the year, but only identifies enough funding to make it a handful of weeks. Even with that limited funding, Trump is basically playing a cruel game of robbing Peter to pay Paul: He is taking billions of dollars of federal natural disaster funding away so it won’t be available to states like Florida. And, he is forcing states to choose between imposing benefit cuts for unemployed workers or slashing funds for public schools, health workers, and first responders.
A third order, on evictions, is woefully inadequate to deal with the emerging housing crisis. He is leaving our nation’s renters with ever-mounting debt and leaving our small family landlords badly squeezed. Without a comprehensive plan to help our American families make rent, they will leave this crisis months behind on their payments while many landlords teeter on the verge of bankruptcy.
And a fourth order is a band-aid approach to student debt that leaves out 7 million borrowers who obtained their federal loans from private lenders or their college rather than the Department. The economic strain on these Americans is deep and unrelenting.
There is a solution to all of this pain and suffering. A real leader would go back to Washington, call together the leaders of the House and Senate, and negotiate a deal that delivers real relief to Americans who are struggling in this pandemic. We need a president who understands their struggle and believes in their courage to overcome.
As Congress contemplates another round of COVID-19 relief, one massive part of the economy is consistently overlooked, yet has proved so vital in bolstering quality of life during this unprecedented public health emergency in which people must be distanced and isolated: the arts. Shutting down theaters, performance spaces, concerts, exhibitions, museums, galleries and cultural spaces has resulted in hundreds of thousands of people losing their jobs, their careers. Many of these institutions are non-profits, which routinely struggle for financial resources. Now, the industry has created Be An Arts Hero (beanartshero.com), to lobby for support using the same arguments as other industries that are getting more attention: hospitality, airlines, cruiselines, restaurants. This is a “Dear Senators” letter:
The $877 billion our industry generated last fiscal year is about to disappear. The 4.5% we added to our GDP—about to vaporize. We are second only to Retail as the most powerful economic driver of this economy, boasting an export of $72.6 billion and an annual growth rate of 4.16% , nearly double that of the U.S. economy as a whole at 2.2%. Without your immediate action for financial relief by August 1, we will collapse, and the result will be an economic cataclysm.
We are the Arts Economy. We are everywhere. And our fates are tied together.
We are over 675,000 small businesses and organizations in every town, city, and state, employing 5.1 million hard-working Americans who are now desperately struggling to stay above water. Our influence reaches across every sector because the Arts Economy is a jobs multiplier, creating millions of sustainable jobs in collateral arts-adjacent economies. In short, our institutions of Arts and Culture anchor communities, producing highly interdependent commercial ecosystems that depend on rank-and-file Arts Workers who increase tax revenue, real estate value, and attract businesses, large and small. These are the dominoes. If you lose us, we lose the economy. We need your help.
We are Florida’s largest job creator at 260,999 jobs, bringing in $36,937,050,840 (3.7%) to Florida’s state revenue. America’s favorite theme park which was built by union carpenters and construction workers, now runs on the working-class labor of the administrative staff who operate the day-to-day; the engineers who make it move; the electricians who keep it bright; the painters and pyro-technicians who explode it with color; the custodians who keep it clean; and the actors, dancers, and musicians who bring it to life. We need your help.
We are New York City’s main economic driver: in 2019, Broadway sold more tickets than all the NY and NJ sports teams combined, creating a revenue of $1.83 Billion in ticket sales, generating even more in Arts-adjacent businesses. On any night out, our audiences take public transportation, taxis, and Ubers/Lyfts; pay for childcare; go shopping; and by record numbers, they go to restaurants which employ kitchen staff, waiters, and bussers who rely on food delivery trucks whose companies purchase goods from farmers, who are now mass killing their livestock and burning their crops because their industry is crashing. We need your help.
We account for $30.3 billion (3.7% of GSP) of the Illinois economy and contribute over 224,000 jobs. In Chicago, alone, that’s $2.25 billion in economic activity annually. If we go missing, the economic implosion in our neighborhoods, in our cities, and in our state will take decades to rebuild.
We are a $1 billion economy in Wyoming, $2.9 billion in Nebraska, $4.2 billion in Iowa, $7 billion in Utah, $8.3 billion in Indiana, $9 billion in Arizona, $10 billion in Missouri, $15 billion in North Carolina, $19 billion in Ohio, $24 billion in Georgia, $44 billion in Washington, $46 billion in Texas, and $230 billion in California. We are Big Business because we are Local Business, creating and sustaining jobs across trades, not to mention the Artists themselves.
Artists, whose creativity has elevated our best moments and now sustain us through one of our worst. Artists, who require your signature as a byline to one of the most consequential stories of your tenure; the story where you:
1. Extend Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) by August 1, before 28 million of your constituents are evicted and on the streets.
2. Create a 100% subsidy for COBRA to protect workers’ healthcare, with eligibility extended to 36 months.
3. Provide $43.85 billion in economic relief to sustain our Arts and Culture institutions: this relief should go directly to the NEA, NEH, IMLS, and CPB, to be appropriated to its partner organizations across the towns, cities, suburbs, exurbs, and rural areas in which they operate. This $43.85 billion is 5% of our generated revenue for 2019, which is proportionate to the $50 billion you gave to the top ten airlines who successfully lobbied for your assistance. We ask for nothing more than immediate and proportionate economic relief.
The cost of this relief and FPUC’s extension of $85/day ($600 extra dollars a week) will pale compared to your inaction, which is estimated to cost trillions and will devastate working people. Families and individuals who depend on our colossal Arts Economy are struggling to pay rent and put food on the table as they face anxiety over whether they can make it past August 1. Our very humanity—and the Humanities—teeter at the edge of a fiscal and existential cliff. If we fall, so does the identity of America itself, for we are the very expression of this nation. And right now, we are crying out for your action.
Dear Senators, you are at your finest when you come together to hear the collective call of your people, one people, without prejudice to partisanship or politic, and with a heart full of love for all whom you represent. We are not only calling on you to represent us, we are calling on you to represent this moment. We are calling on you to represent our future. We are calling on you to represent the history that you are about to make.
Dear Senators, now is your time. The nation is bearing witness. You hundred women and men stand at the center of America’s stage and we are calling upon you to act. You have the power to save your people and revitalize your country in its darkest hour. And we are desperate for Light. Dear Senators, the ink is still wet, you hold the pen, and the story of this nation is in your hands.
UNITED WE STAND,
Matthew-Lee Erlbach THE ARTS ECONOMY
Co-signatories of this letter include working-class Arts Workers in solidarity with the most preëminent Arts Leaders and Institutions of the United States.