Preventing the Unemployment Cliff
July 24, 2020
By Matt Hughes
Extend UI and guarantee fair wages.
The Roosevelt Rundown is an email series featuring the Roosevelt Institute’s top stories of the week.
We Need a Fair Wage Guarantee
For the one in five American workers currently drawing unemployment benefits, the end of this month brings a grim reality: the expiration of Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation, which has added $600 a week in benefits and forestalled evictions, bankruptcies, and food insecurity for millions. In a new issue brief, Roosevelt Fellow Bharat Ramamurti and Great Democracy Initiative Fellow Lindsay Owens explain why an extension of this supplement is necessary but insufficient for insulating Americans from steep income drops. The solution, they argue, is a fair wage guarantee. Four benefits: It raises wages for millions, provides a powerful economic stimulus, promotes the hiring of unemployed workers, and addresses racial inequities in the labor market. Learn more in “The Fair Wage Guarantee: A Once-in-a-Generation Opportunity to Raise Wages and Accelerate Our Economic Recovery,” and read more from Ramamurti and Roosevelt Fellow Naomi Zewde in Vox’s “The End of the American Dream.”
- The costs of the cliff: In a letter sent on Wednesday, leading progressive organizations—including the Roosevelt Institute, the Center for American Progress, MoveOn, and the Economic Policy Institute—urged Congress to extend the unemployment supplement: “This $600 boost to unemployment benefits has helped millions pay rent, buy groceries, and keep the lights on. Slashing workers’ incomes now, by any amount, before it is safe to go back to work—and while there are still more than 3 times as many unemployed workers as job openings—will further hurt demand.”
Bolstering State Economies by Raising Progressive Taxes
With state and local governments facing unprecedented revenue shortfalls, many are proposing deep cuts to public services and employment even as COVID-19 reaches new peaks. As Kitty Richards (strategic advisor to the Groundwork Collaborative) explains in a new issue brief, there’s a better way: “Tax increases, especially those that fall on the rich, are far less damaging than spending cuts. In fact, not only should spending not be cut to avoid a tax increase, further increasing [state and local] taxes on the rich in order to increase spending would provide a large boost to the local economy.” Learn how.
- The inequality of budget cuts: “Budget shortfalls will exacerbate gender and racial inequities already worsened by COVID and they will levy a heavy and long-lasting toll on women workers,” Roosevelt Director of Health Equity Andrea Flynn and Georgetown Center on Poverty & Inequality Co-Executive Director Indivar Dutta-Gupta write for Ms. Magazine. “Women and people of color, and particularly women of color, will be more likely to lose their jobs and the cuts to essential health, education, and other services will jeopardize their health and economic security in the short and long term . . . There is no getting around it: A gender-equitable recovery requires an infusion of funding from the federal government to the states.”
Rhiana Gunn-Wright, in Her Words
“In some ways, it’s easier to talk about climate change than when we first came out with the Green New Deal resolution. That’s because the connections between the pandemic and climate crisis are clear, starting with the fact that people of color—Black and Latino folks—are dying at far higher rates from COVID,” Roosevelt Director of Climate Policy Rhiana Gunn-Wright tells Emma Goldberg for the New York Times newsletter In Her Words. This week, Gunn-Wright joined former Vice President Al Gore and others for Bloomberg Green’s virtual event, “The Time Is Now,” and reiterated why climate action requires racial justice: “To move something with no support on one side, you need multiracial coalitions,” Gunn-Wright said. “And that is difficult to do unless you are speaking about climate in a way that creates a more just and equitable society.” Watch here.
Rest in Power, John Lewis
Roosevelt mourns the passing of Rep. John Lewis—Conscience of the Congress and model of undaunted leadership. “While his words and his voice and his presence are a vivid memory, it is his example of humanity and leadership in our democracy that will be his legacy,” said Roosevelt board chair Anna Eleanor Roosevelt, who presented Rep. Lewis with a Four Freedoms Award in 1999. “We are all committed to keeping that legacy alive.”
What We’re Reading
Black Regulators Rarely Appointed to Oversee Wall Street – Wall Street Journal
You’re Only As Free as You Are Wealthy – The Nation
The ADA at 30: Beyond the Law’s Promise – New York Times