Covid relief is on life support

Covid relief is on life support

With time and political will running low in the nation’s capital, the U.S. Senate on Thursday rejected a scaled-back Covid-19 relief bill. Senators voted along partisan lines on a “skinny” bill crafted by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, falling eight votes shy of the 60 needed to break a filibuster. The bill did not include money sought by Sen. Bill Cassidy for states and local governments, and falls far short of meeting the needs of families that are reeling from economic damage wrought by the pandemic. The Washington Post’s Paul Kane explains the politics behind the vote. 

GOP senators are now openly admitting that this is not a serious effort at restarting talks, which collapsed in early August after many fruitless meetings led by Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. Instead, this is more of a political messaging bill that endangered Republicans can cite in their campaigns. “I hate to give up on the fact that we’re not going to get this done,” Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), a member of McConnell’s leadership team, said Wednesday. But, Blunt explained, this skinny bill gives those incumbents something to talk about. 

The AP’s Andrew Taylor and Lisa Mascaro write that the bill’s demise could spell the end of any Covid-19 relief passing Congress before the Nov. 3 elections. 

 

Schools that are mostly Black, Latino favor online schooling
School districts with a large majority of white students are three times more likely to be doing in-person learning than districts with a large majority of non-white students. While this disparity could reflect parental preferences, others think it could be another symptom of larger racial disparities that our society has seen during the Covid-19 pandemic. The AP’s Kalyn Belsha, Michael Rubinkam, Gabrielle LaMarr LeMee and Larry Fenn report: 

Students learning from home also will lose reliable access to free or subsidized meals, special education services and other in-person support. While wealthy families may be able to pay private tutors or therapists to fill the gaps, others will go without. “I do worry about that and the fact there are these correlations between what schools are doing and students’ backgrounds,” said Jon Valant, a senior fellow focused on education at the Brookings Institution. “Which is not to say necessarily that anyone is making the wrong decisions. It suggests that we need to be seriously thinking about major public investments to try to mitigate some of the harm from all of this.” 

 

Education jobs take a hit
The Covid-19 recession has hit state and local education jobs particularly hard. Almost 60% of the 1.1 million public-sector workers who have lost their jobs since February worked in education. But cuts to education funding could become much worse, as states face massive budget gaps. Wesley Tharpe of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities explains:

The scope of the permanent job losses in education will depend, in large part, on pending policy choices by federal and state lawmakers. States face an estimated $555 billion in revenue shortfalls through 2022, and those projected shortfalls still total nearly $400 billion after accounting for flexible federal aid to date and states’ own reserve funds. In response, states and localities are increasingly slashing funding for vital public services. Some states and localities have managed to limit or delay cuts to K-12 and higher education thus far, but that’s likely to be unsustainable since education and health care account for more than half of state and local spending nationwide.

 

The opportunity gap in the labor market
The World Economic Forum recently stated: “The COVID-19 economic shock has made the skills gap broader and the need to close it more urgent.” But focusing on a ‘skills gap’ alone assumes that all workers have an equal opportunity to a level market and ignores social dynamics such as race, class, age and gender bias in the hiring process. Brookings’ Annelies Goger and Luther Jackson explain why the labor market has an “opportunity gap” rather than a skills gap, and how to close it.

Closing the opportunity gap means embracing a more holistic and nuanced approach for connecting diverse talent to economic opportunity. This could include:

 

  • Information about quality jobs and career navigation assistance
  • Affordable education and on-the-job learning
  • Supportive services such as child care and transportation
  • Professional networks and peer support
  • A foot in the door to a new field, including first jobs, internships, and apprenticeships
  • Equitable hiring, mentoring, and management practices

 

 

 

Number of the Day
33% – Nationwide drop in colonoscopies in June, compared to the pre-Covid average. Colonoscopies are generally used to screen for colon cancer. In general, preventative care for Americans has plummeted during the Covid-19 pandemic. (Source: Health Care Cost Institute via The New York Times)