COVID-19 shutdowns incomplete without monetary assistance

November 17, 2020 12:20 am

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COVID-19 is spiraling. In nearly every metric, across Ohio and the country, COVID-19 numbers are way up and show little sign of coming back down without significant intervention. Talks of a “shutdown” or “lockdown” are on many people’s lips. Gov. Mike DeWine is weighing if he should close restaurants, bars, gyms, and more. Maybe he should if it can help stymie the growth of COVID-19. Recently, Michigan has rolled back indoor dining, in-person classes, and closed casinos, in an effort to allay the effects of the pandemic.

The prevailing narrative on social media, and by many others, is that a lockdown or increased restrictions are likely coming and necessary. But there’s some push back from a growing number of people — many of which have suffered greatly from the damage the pandemic has done to Ohio’s economy.

Obviously, some are flagrantly ignoring suggestions and guidelines to avoid spreading the disease, which is incredibly unwise and has only helped to accelerate our rising numbers, and stress our health care system. COVID-19 is very real, and some sort of renewed restriction would likely help improve Ohio’s pandemic problems.

As it currently stands, a lockdown would be utterly devastating to many Ohioans. The fact is, many Ohioans are not doing well. Food insecurity and poverty have increased dramatically. More people than ever simply do not have the money or resources to buy more food or other necessities.

When March’s lockdown went into effect, unemployment spiked horribly; as high as 17%. The hospitality industry, which includes bars, restaurants, and hotels, was hit the hardest, with an estimated 51% reduction of jobs compared to the same time in 2019. Even after more than six months of some recovery, Ohio hospitality jobs are still down nearly 25% compared to 2019. These numbers don’t talk about the quality of these jobs, either. For those who have returned to work, many find themselves trying to stretch a smaller paycheck further, to make ends meet.

With looming shutdowns, thousands of workers would be sent home, without the ability to earn money from their jobs. How do you shelter-in-place when there’s no food at home? How can anyone focus on protecting themselves from COVID-19 if they’re at risk of getting evicted? Without money, many people who would otherwise be able to stay home and help flatten the curve again, won’t be at home. Instead, they’ll be in the workplace, because they have no other options. There, they’d be risking exposure, and potentially increasing the spread of COVID-19.

In the United States, it seems silly that dine-in eating is allowed, and that bars are open. Yet, by the same token, it seems unfair to penalize or shame workers and other small business owners for staying open. There has not been any widespread, nationwide stimulus for people or businesses since spring, and many rent and eviction moratoriums for businesses and people alike have expired, or are nearing expiration. Unfortunately, staying open and providing service is many businesses’ only option. How else are they supposed to meet their financial obligations? 

Many countries in the European Union have paid bars and restaurants money to stay closed. Also, their governments have paid furloughed or laid-off individual workers a majority of their salary, despite millions of layoffs. The social safety nets they have in those countries have helped incentivize workers to stay home, and thus reduce the spread of COVID-19.

The United States’ handful of loan and grant programs doled out at the start of the pandemic haven’t been enough. Those programs only helped a small amount, clearly not enough to incentivize businesses to temporarily close, or workers to stay home. It’s sobering to read reports in the news from President-elect Joe Biden’s that say “Paying workers to stay home 4 to 6 weeks could contain pandemic.

The forthcoming Biden administration has concrete and tactical plans on the pandemic. However, President-elect Biden will not be in office until late January, so any plan of theirs is weeks or even months from being implemented. Ohio’s COVID-19 numbers are out of control now, and our response has to be swift and decisive.

There has been little talk of any economic assistance meant for Ohio citizens or businesses if a lockdown is implemented. Ohioans need more than kind platitudes or fatherly lectures during live-streamed events. They need practical assistance. They need money to live, to eat, and to protect themselves from COVID-19.

Without it, our numbers will only continue to rise.



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Kevin Williams
Kevin Williams

Kevin Williams is a freelance writer, focused on structural inequality. He is also a northeast Ohio native, and has graduated from The Ohio State University.