Jobless numbers stay high as Senate’s ruling Republicans do nothing
Senate Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a press conference today that the original Heroes Act in its full form is a starting point for negotiations on a plan to make a dent in both the coronavirus and jobs crisis. | Alex Edelman/AP

WASHINGTON—The nation’s jobless lines—people collecting state or federal unemployment benefits—totaled 21.157 million in the week ending Oct. 24, or one in every seven workers, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported. And that doesn’t include the 1.021 million more people who sought aid in the week ending Nov. 7, nor the 1.106 million who applied for aid in the week before that.

Add in the people who sought aid in the last two weeks, and the jobless rate rises to 15.9% or nearly one in every six.

Despite those numbers, the Republican Senate majority still refuses to help them, especially those people whose benefits have already run out or who are headed for the rocks by the end of this year. NBC reported that the latter group could total 13 million by Jan. 1.

Congressional Republicans aren’t the only ones turning a blind eye to the coronavirus plague and its resulting joblessness. GOP Oval Office occupant Donald Trump is still in denial, urging states to open up their economies, despite the skyrocketing coronavirus caseload. But he’s really consumed with filing frivolous lawsuits trying to overturn his Nov. 3 election loss to Democratic nominee Joe Biden. He’s not paying attention to the misery of either the virus or joblessness.

The states, forced to battle anew on their own against rising infection rates, again rush to clamp down on social interactions which lead to the spread of the modern-day plague. The U.S. set a new daily record on Nov. 11, 144,133, of the number of people testing positive for the virus, officially called COVID-19.

That raises the cumulative national total of ill people to 10,403,745, equivalent to the entire state of Michigan plus all but 13,000 people in Minneapolis. Of those who tested positive, the COVID-19 Tracking Project reported 61,694 are hospitalized, straining nationwide capacity, and almost a quarter of a million (241,809) have died. That figure exceeds the population of Fremont, Calif.

“Hospitals are already on the brink of being overwhelmed in Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Texas, Utah, and Wisconsin,” MarketWatch reported.

“Each day this virus goes unchecked is a setback for our economic recovery.  Wisconsin, this is serious! The crisis is urgent,” Gov. Tony Evers, D-Wis., said. Left unsaid: Wisconsin’s GOP-gerrymandered and GOP-dominated legislature, following Trump’s lead, overrode many if not most of Evers’s closures. Wisconsin residents are paying the price. Evers said the state set a new daily case record on Nov. 11.

And the situation in GOP-run North Dakota is so bad, MarketWatch added, that its hospitals have reached 100% capacity and there’s such a shortage of health care workers that those who test positive for the virus but show no symptoms “are being allowed to care for COVID patients,” GOP Gov. Doug Burnum said.

Somebody tell the Senate GOP. The effort must be bipartisan, because the Democratic-run House has already done its job, passing the Heroes Act—to provide jobless benefits and other aid, including to hard-pressed state and local governments—twice, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said.

“The Heroes Act”—the original, more-comprehensive, House-passed $3.4 trillion version–should be the starting point, not an emaciated bill that prioritizes protections for corporations and considers the needs of American families as an afterthought,” Schumer said at a joint press conference Nov. 12 with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

“The Heroes Act, passed in the House, does meet this moment. It doesn’t pick and choose who we’re going to help during the greatest health and economic crisis in decades,” he argued.

That original Heroes Act restores $600 weekly federal jobless benefits, which ran out July 31, on top of state aid. Besides more money for the jobless, it also demands Trump’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration force businesses to craft and implement plans to protect workers and customers against the virus. And it orders Trump to invoke the Defense Production Act to force factories to make personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontline workers, among other provisions.

Two days before, Schumer chided McConnell and the GOP for refusing to aid the jobless. “Congress should pursue a strong, comprehensive COVID-relief bill that actually meets the needs of the American people,” he said. But on Nov. 9 “the Republican leader suggested the Republican majority will continue to pursue its policy of targeted relief–in other words, inadequate relief. He seemed to suggest the development of a possible vaccine was actually a reason to pare back on aid to the American people.” McConnell, in opening remarks on Nov. 10, didn’t mention COVID-19 at all.

Trump may be inactive, but Biden isn’t. He named a coronavirus task force, composed entirely of MDs and specialists in infectious diseases, to craft a comprehensive plan to battle the virus, and says he will follow their recommendations. And in a key pivot, the federal Centers for Disease Control said on Nov. 10 that wearing masks nationwide will protect you from inhaling the virus, as well as protecting others from your exhaled microscopic droplets that carry it.


CONTRIBUTOR

Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of Press Associates Inc. (PAI), a union news service in Washington, D.C. that he has headed since 1999. Previously, he worked as Washington correspondent for the Ottaway News Service, as Port Jervis bureau chief for the Middletown, NY Times Herald Record, and as a researcher and writer for Congressional Quarterly. Mark obtained his BA in public policy from the University of Chicago and worked as the University of Chicago correspondent for the Chicago Daily News.

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