Tag Archives: COVID-19 relief

Biden Reacts to Trump COVID Relief Executive Orders: ‘Unable to deliver for the American people in a time of crisis, Donald Trump offered a series of half-baked measures’

Vice President Joe Biden reacted to Trump’s COVID Relief Executive Orders, saying “Unable to deliver for the American people in a time of crisis, Donald Trump offered a series of half-baked measures.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

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. 

$877 Billion Arts Industry Appeals for Federal Financial Relief from COVID-19: ‘Dear Senators, Be An Arts Hero’

Broadway theater has been shuttered by coronavirus pandemic © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

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.