Four Priorities for Pandemic Relief Efforts

May 1, 2020

It’s not too late to make better policy choices.

The Roosevelt Rundown is an email series featuring the Roosevelt Institute’s top stories of the week.

Preserving Lives and Livelihoods

In the past six weeks, one in five Americans employed in February lost their jobs, and over 60,000 lost their lives to COVID-19. As Roosevelt Chief Economist Joseph Stiglitz argues in a new paper, the federal government has not done enough to tackle these intertwined threats: “Though Congress has intervened with trillions of dollars in stimulus and relief, these rescue packages have been poorly designed. Cash and unemployment benefits will likely run out before the crisis is over; state and local governments, facing increasing expenses and declining revenue, are not receiving the funds they need; the ‘payroll protection plan’ is both inadequately funded and ill-equipped to reach those who most need protection.” For future pandemic relief efforts, Stiglitz proposes four policy priorities—including further support for health care and insurance systems (including paid sick leave), funds for state and local government, a paycheck guarantee program, and broader-based liquidity and debt relief for individuals and households. Read on.

  • Voters want more from Congress: As new polling from the Groundwork Collaborative and Roosevelt shows, such measures garner support from majorities of Americans, with 70 percent of voters agreeing that “we should do whatever it takes to provide Americans the economic support they need during this very difficult time.” Asked about a list of 17 policies, respondents considered all but one–tax cuts for corporations–likely to be effective. Read more.
  • The CARES Act’s design flaws: The current Paycheck Protection Program, Stiglitz notes, is simply not working for America’s most vulnerable. This week, Roosevelt Fellow Mehrsa Baradaran told NBC News why: “It uses banks as middlemen. Any time you create a big program and give banks the ability to choose which customers it prioritizes, you’re going to have disparities . . . Credit disparities are where past injustices lead to present disparities.”


As essential workers strike across the nation for International Workers’ Day, a new report from Roosevelt Fellow Alex Hertel-Fernandez uses original survey research to examine structural workplace imbalances. Analyzing the data along four dimensions—experiences with arbitrary or unfair managerial power, access to workplace information, knowledge about workplace rights, and access to workplace discussions—Hertel-Fernandez charts a path for reforming long-broken labor law and redefining what a “good job” should mean. Those reforms, he writes, “would go far in rebuilding workplace power for millions of American workers. As the COVID-19 crisis continues to exacerbate the structural inequities of our labor market, that power has never mattered more.” Read on.

Black and Brown Americans Need a Better Normal

As always, those inequities disproportionately harm people of color. For the blog, Roosevelt Managing Director of Communications Kendra Bozarth and Michelle Holder (assistant professor of economics at John Jay College, City University of New York) share preliminary estimates of unemployment numbers due next week—Black unemployment at or above 20 percent and Black male unemployment at or above 23 percent. In a piece for Inkstick Media, Roosevelt Fellow Anne Price and Director of Health Equity Andrea Flynn explain how building Black women’s wealth can bolster the American economy during this crisis and beyond: “Investments that center on Black women will benefit everyone, but as we have seen from centuries of policies that have failed Black women and their families, justice doesn’t just trickle down.” Read on.

What We’re Reading

Peacocks and Vultures Are Circling the Deficit – New York Times

Ending Lockdowns Won’t Revive the Economy – New York Magazine

How the Coronavirus Pandemic Has Shattered the Myth of College in America – The New Yorker

The Pandemic Will Change American Retail Forever – The Atlantic

What Donald Trump Could Learn from Herbert Hoover – Politico

Why the US Shouldn’t Let States Go Bankrupt – Vox

Why Americans Need a Guaranteed Income – New York Times