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Millions of America’s working poor may lose out on key anti-poverty tax credit because of the pandemic – The Conversation US

The pandemic is driving American families to the edge, with tens of millions at risk of losing their homes and over 1 in 10 U.S. adults reporting their households didnt have enough to eat in the previous week.

While Congress debates extending unemployment benefits that expired on July 31 and other additional aid, theres an important program that already exists that could help struggling Americans get through the crisis however long it lasts. Known as the earned income tax credit, or EITC, it provides aid primarily to the working poor. In a typical year, it lifts more than 8.5 million people out of poverty, while improving the health and well-being of parents and children.

Since the credit depends on earned income, many families may be at risk of losing all or some of the benefit because so many were laid off as economies in many states shut down. Even as restaurants and other businesses reopen, its likely that many of those who lost their jobs will remain unemployed or underemployed for many months or longer.

Our own research shows changes to the structure of the U.S. economy, with the sharp growth of low-wage and unstable jobs, is weakening the EITCs effectiveness at fighting poverty.

Some lawmakers are trying to reform the EITC as part of the next coronavirus bailout to ensure it helps more Americans and make it more like a basic income guarantee. We believe doing so would not only ensure low-income Americans continue to have access to this vital tax credit during the pandemic, additional changes could also strengthen the program for years to come.

The earned income tax credit, which supplements earnings for many low- and moderate-income workers, has helped buffer economic hardship for single parents and other recipients since it was created in 1975.

Eligible taxpayers receive the credit after they file their taxes. And unlike a deduction, even those who didnt pay any income tax can receive the credit, which theyll get as part of their refund. Twenty-eight states and the District of Columbia also offer their own EITCs, typically based on the federal credit.

In 2019, taxpayers received about US$63 billion in credits through the federal EITC, making it the governments largest cash safety net program for working families with children. Recipients qualify for the credit based on how much money they earn and depending on their marital status and number of children. The benefit rises with each dollar earned until reaching a peak and then phasing out.

For example, in 2019, a single person earning $13,545 a year received $392, while a typical family of four with an annual income of $22,261 received roughly $2,951 which comes out to an extra $250 a month.

Put another way, a family with one child receives an average credit of 34 cents for every dollar of earned income, which rises to 40 cents for two and 45 cents for three or more children.

The tax credit has been tremendously successful. In 2018, the latest data available, the EITC lifted about 10.6 million people out of poverty and reduced its severity for another 17.5 million. And since its inception, it has reduced child poverty by 25%.

But the benefits extend well beyond providing struggling families with more income. Research shows the credit has helped improve the mental and physical health of mothers, improves perinatal health of mothers and their children, improves child development, reduces incidents of low birth weight among infants and improves childrens cognitive function.

It also enjoys strong bipartisan support because of its focus on encouraging and supporting working.

But the EITC only helps individuals able to find work, which becomes a bigger challenge in a pandemic or severe recession.

Our unpublished calculations from a national representative survey showed that about a fifth of the 25 million EITC beneficiaries in 2019 lost their jobs from March to April and over 16% remained unemployed in June, the latest data we have available. That means over 4 million working families could lose a large portion of their benefits in 2021, depending on a variety of factors.

While these problems are most obvious in a recession, theyve worsened over the past four decades as the labor market has changed.

The share of workers doing low-skill, low-wage work has jumped from 42% in 1980 to about 54% in 2016. And an increasing number of these jobs are in the precarious gig economy that doesnt provide stable incomes. That means workers are less likely to see a steady aid from the EITC because the maximum benefits are gained when working full time at minimum wage.

The EITCs also provides very little support to those without children. A nonpartisan think tank estimates that about 5.8 million adult workers without any children as dependents are taxed into poverty or impoverished further each year because their EITC is too small to offset their federal income and payroll taxes.

House Democrats are pushing to reform the EITC in the next coronavirus relief bill. Specifically, theyd like to tweak the credits phase-in so that workers receive more benefits for fewer hours worked, allowing those who lost their jobs and remained unemployed for the remainder of 2020 to maintain benefits similar to last year. They also would lower the minimum age for receiving the credit to 18 from 25 for certain vulnerable groups like those experiencing homeless.

Wed suggest also increasing the benefit for tax filers without children and lowering the minimum age for everyone so that the millions of young people graduating from high school and college into an economic recession can get additional support.

These reforms would not only help now but could also deepen the impact of the EITC by creating an income floor for more people as the economy changes, essentially creating something very much like a basic income guarantee. A key difference, however, is that most universal basic income proposals dont require recipients to work.

While we cannot fully predict how interactions between job losses and the tax and benefit system will play out, this moment presents an opportunity to test reforms that would benefit low-income working families for years and decades to come.

Read the rest here:

Millions of America's working poor may lose out on key anti-poverty tax credit because of the pandemic - The Conversation US

Why We Should Turn to Earned Income Tax Credit to Aid Those Struggling Through Pandemic – The National Interest

The pandemic is driving American families to the edge, with tens of millions at risk of losing their homes and over 1 in 10 U.S. adults reporting their households didnt have enough to eat in the previous week.

While Congress debates extending unemployment benefits that expired on July 31 and other additional aid, theres an important program that already exists that could help struggling Americans get through the crisis however long it lasts. Known as the earned income tax credit, or EITC, it provides aid primarily to the working poor. In a typical year, it lifts more than 8.5 million people out of poverty, while improving the health and well-being of parents and children.

Since the credit depends on earned income, many families may be at risk of losing all or some of the benefit because so many were laid off as economies in many states shut down. Even as restaurants and other businesses reopen, its likely that many of those who lost their jobs will remain unemployed or underemployed for many months or longer.

Our own research shows changes to the structure of the U.S. economy, with the sharp growth of low-wage and unstable jobs, is weakening the EITCs effectiveness at fighting poverty.

Some lawmakers are trying to reform the EITC as part of the next coronavirus bailout to ensure it helps more Americans and make it more like a basic income guarantee. We believe doing so would not only ensure low-income Americans continue to have access to this vital tax credit during the pandemic, additional changes could also strengthen the program for years to come.

The EITC success story

The earned income tax credit, which supplements earnings for many low- and moderate-income workers, has helped buffer economic hardship for single parents and other recipients since it was created in 1975.

Eligible taxpayers receive the credit after they file their taxes. And unlike a deduction, even those who didnt pay any income tax can receive the credit, which theyll get as part of their refund. Twenty-eight states and the District of Columbia also offer their own EITCs, typically based on the federal credit.

In 2019, taxpayers received about US$63 billion in credits through the federal EITC, making it the governments largest cash safety net program for working families with children. Recipients qualify for the credit based on how much money they earn and depending on their marital status and number of children. The benefit rises with each dollar earned until reaching a peak and then phasing out.

For example, in 2019, a single person earning $13,545 a year received $392, while a typical family of four with an annual income of $22,261 received roughly $2,951 which comes out to an extra $250 a month.

Put another way, a family with one child receives an average credit of 34 cents for every dollar of earned income, which rises to 40 cents for two and 45 cents for three or more children.

The tax credit has been tremendously successful. In 2018, the latest data available, the EITC lifted about 10.6 million people out of poverty and reduced its severity for another 17.5 million. And since its inception, it has reduced child poverty by 25%.

But the benefits extend well beyond providing struggling families with more income. Research shows the credit has helped improve the mental and physical health of mothers, improves perinatal health of mothers and their children, improves child development, reduces incidents of low birth weight among infants and improves childrens cognitive function.

It also enjoys strong bipartisan support because of its focus on encouraging and supporting working.

But the EITC only helps individuals able to find work, which becomes a bigger challenge in a pandemic or severe recession.

Our unpublished calculations from a national representative survey showed that about a fifth of the 25 million EITC beneficiaries in 2019 lost their jobs from March to April and over 16% remained unemployed in June, the latest data we have available. That means over 4 million working families could lose a large portion of their benefits in 2021, depending on a variety of factors.

Reforming the EITC

While these problems are most obvious in a recession, theyve worsened over the past four decades as the labor market has changed.

The share of workers doing low-skill, low-wage work has jumped from 42% in 1980 to about 54% in 2016. And an increasing number of these jobs are in the precarious gig economy that doesnt provide stable incomes. That means workers are less likely to see a steady aid from the EITC because the maximum benefits are gained when working full time at minimum wage.

The EITCs also provides very little support to those without children. A nonpartisan think tank estimates that about 5.8 million adult workers without any children as dependents are taxed into poverty or impoverished further each year because their EITC is too small to offset their federal income and payroll taxes.

House Democrats are pushing to reform the EITC in the next coronavirus relief bill. Specifically, theyd like to tweak the credits phase-in so that workers receive more benefits for fewer hours worked, allowing those who lost their jobs and remained unemployed for the remainder of 2020 to maintain benefits similar to last year. They also would lower the minimum age for receiving the credit to 18 from 25 for certain vulnerable groups like those experiencing homeless.

Wed suggest also increasing the benefit for tax filers without children and lowering the minimum age for everyone so that the millions of young people graduating from high school and college into an economic recession can get additional support.

These reforms would not only help now but could also deepen the impact of the EITC by creating an income floor for more people as the economy changes, essentially creating something very much like a basic income guarantee. A key difference, however, is that most universal basic income proposals dont require recipients to work.

While we cannot fully predict how interactions between job losses and the tax and benefit system will play out, this moment presents an opportunity to test reforms that would benefit low-income working families for years and decades to come.

Rebecca Hasdell, Postdoctoral fellow, Stanford University; Alice Milivinti, Postdoctoral Researcher, Stanford University, and David Rehkopf, Associate Professor of Medicine, Stanford University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Image: Reuters

Continue reading here:

Why We Should Turn to Earned Income Tax Credit to Aid Those Struggling Through Pandemic - The National Interest

Millions of America’s working poor may lose out on key anti-poverty tax credit because of the pandemic – The Conversation US

The pandemic is driving American families to the edge, with tens of millions at risk of losing their homes and over 1 in 10 U.S. adults reporting their households didnt have enough to eat in the previous week.

While Congress debates extending unemployment benefits that expired on July 31 and other additional aid, theres an important program that already exists that could help struggling Americans get through the crisis however long it lasts. Known as the earned income tax credit, or EITC, it provides aid primarily to the working poor. In a typical year, it lifts more than 8.5 million people out of poverty, while improving the health and well-being of parents and children.

Since the credit depends on earned income, many families may be at risk of losing all or some of the benefit because so many were laid off as economies in many states shut down. Even as restaurants and other businesses reopen, its likely that many of those who lost their jobs will remain unemployed or underemployed for many months or longer.

Our own research shows changes to the structure of the U.S. economy, with the sharp growth of low-wage and unstable jobs, is weakening the EITCs effectiveness at fighting poverty.

Some lawmakers are trying to reform the EITC as part of the next coronavirus bailout to ensure it helps more Americans and make it more like a basic income guarantee. We believe doing so would not only ensure low-income Americans continue to have access to this vital tax credit during the pandemic, additional changes could also strengthen the program for years to come.

The earned income tax credit, which supplements earnings for many low- and moderate-income workers, has helped buffer economic hardship for single parents and other recipients since it was created in 1975.

Eligible taxpayers receive the credit after they file their taxes. And unlike a deduction, even those who didnt pay any income tax can receive the credit, which theyll get as part of their refund. Twenty-eight states and the District of Columbia also offer their own EITCs, typically based on the federal credit.

In 2019, taxpayers received about US$63 billion in credits through the federal EITC, making it the governments largest cash safety net program for working families with children. Recipients qualify for the credit based on how much money they earn and depending on their marital status and number of children. The benefit rises with each dollar earned until reaching a peak and then phasing out.

For example, in 2019, a single person earning $13,545 a year received $392, while a typical family of four with an annual income of $22,261 received roughly $2,951 which comes out to an extra $250 a month.

Put another way, a family with one child receives an average credit of 34 cents for every dollar of earned income, which rises to 40 cents for two and 45 cents for three or more children.

The tax credit has been tremendously successful. In 2018, the latest data available, the EITC lifted about 10.6 million people out of poverty and reduced its severity for another 17.5 million. And since its inception, it has reduced child poverty by 25%.

But the benefits extend well beyond providing struggling families with more income. Research shows the credit has helped improve the mental and physical health of mothers, improves perinatal health of mothers and their children, improves child development, reduces incidents of low birth weight among infants and improves childrens cognitive function.

It also enjoys strong bipartisan support because of its focus on encouraging and supporting working.

But the EITC only helps individuals able to find work, which becomes a bigger challenge in a pandemic or severe recession.

Our unpublished calculations from a national representative survey showed that about a fifth of the 25 million EITC beneficiaries in 2019 lost their jobs from March to April and over 16% remained unemployed in June, the latest data we have available. That means over 4 million working families could lose a large portion of their benefits in 2021, depending on a variety of factors.

While these problems are most obvious in a recession, theyve worsened over the past four decades as the labor market has changed.

The share of workers doing low-skill, low-wage work has jumped from 42% in 1980 to about 54% in 2016. And an increasing number of these jobs are in the precarious gig economy that doesnt provide stable incomes. That means workers are less likely to see a steady aid from the EITC because the maximum benefits are gained when working full time at minimum wage.

The EITCs also provides very little support to those without children. A nonpartisan think tank estimates that about 5.8 million adult workers without any children as dependents are taxed into poverty or impoverished further each year because their EITC is too small to offset their federal income and payroll taxes.

House Democrats are pushing to reform the EITC in the next coronavirus relief bill. Specifically, theyd like to tweak the credits phase-in so that workers receive more benefits for fewer hours worked, allowing those who lost their jobs and remained unemployed for the remainder of 2020 to maintain benefits similar to last year. They also would lower the minimum age for receiving the credit to 18 from 25 for certain vulnerable groups like those experiencing homeless.

Wed suggest also increasing the benefit for tax filers without children and lowering the minimum age for everyone so that the millions of young people graduating from high school and college into an economic recession can get additional support.

These reforms would not only help now but could also deepen the impact of the EITC by creating an income floor for more people as the economy changes, essentially creating something very much like a basic income guarantee. A key difference, however, is that most universal basic income proposals dont require recipients to work.

While we cannot fully predict how interactions between job losses and the tax and benefit system will play out, this moment presents an opportunity to test reforms that would benefit low-income working families for years and decades to come.

Read the original here:

Millions of America's working poor may lose out on key anti-poverty tax credit because of the pandemic - The Conversation US

Why We Should Turn to Earned Income Tax Credit to Aid Those Struggling Through Pandemic – The National Interest

The pandemic is driving American families to the edge, with tens of millions at risk of losing their homes and over 1 in 10 U.S. adults reporting their households didnt have enough to eat in the previous week.

While Congress debates extending unemployment benefits that expired on July 31 and other additional aid, theres an important program that already exists that could help struggling Americans get through the crisis however long it lasts. Known as the earned income tax credit, or EITC, it provides aid primarily to the working poor. In a typical year, it lifts more than 8.5 million people out of poverty, while improving the health and well-being of parents and children.

Since the credit depends on earned income, many families may be at risk of losing all or some of the benefit because so many were laid off as economies in many states shut down. Even as restaurants and other businesses reopen, its likely that many of those who lost their jobs will remain unemployed or underemployed for many months or longer.

Our own research shows changes to the structure of the U.S. economy, with the sharp growth of low-wage and unstable jobs, is weakening the EITCs effectiveness at fighting poverty.

Some lawmakers are trying to reform the EITC as part of the next coronavirus bailout to ensure it helps more Americans and make it more like a basic income guarantee. We believe doing so would not only ensure low-income Americans continue to have access to this vital tax credit during the pandemic, additional changes could also strengthen the program for years to come.

The EITC success story

The earned income tax credit, which supplements earnings for many low- and moderate-income workers, has helped buffer economic hardship for single parents and other recipients since it was created in 1975.

Eligible taxpayers receive the credit after they file their taxes. And unlike a deduction, even those who didnt pay any income tax can receive the credit, which theyll get as part of their refund. Twenty-eight states and the District of Columbia also offer their own EITCs, typically based on the federal credit.

In 2019, taxpayers received about US$63 billion in credits through the federal EITC, making it the governments largest cash safety net program for working families with children. Recipients qualify for the credit based on how much money they earn and depending on their marital status and number of children. The benefit rises with each dollar earned until reaching a peak and then phasing out.

For example, in 2019, a single person earning $13,545 a year received $392, while a typical family of four with an annual income of $22,261 received roughly $2,951 which comes out to an extra $250 a month.

Put another way, a family with one child receives an average credit of 34 cents for every dollar of earned income, which rises to 40 cents for two and 45 cents for three or more children.

The tax credit has been tremendously successful. In 2018, the latest data available, the EITC lifted about 10.6 million people out of poverty and reduced its severity for another 17.5 million. And since its inception, it has reduced child poverty by 25%.

But the benefits extend well beyond providing struggling families with more income. Research shows the credit has helped improve the mental and physical health of mothers, improves perinatal health of mothers and their children, improves child development, reduces incidents of low birth weight among infants and improves childrens cognitive function.

It also enjoys strong bipartisan support because of its focus on encouraging and supporting working.

But the EITC only helps individuals able to find work, which becomes a bigger challenge in a pandemic or severe recession.

Our unpublished calculations from a national representative survey showed that about a fifth of the 25 million EITC beneficiaries in 2019 lost their jobs from March to April and over 16% remained unemployed in June, the latest data we have available. That means over 4 million working families could lose a large portion of their benefits in 2021, depending on a variety of factors.

Reforming the EITC

While these problems are most obvious in a recession, theyve worsened over the past four decades as the labor market has changed.

The share of workers doing low-skill, low-wage work has jumped from 42% in 1980 to about 54% in 2016. And an increasing number of these jobs are in the precarious gig economy that doesnt provide stable incomes. That means workers are less likely to see a steady aid from the EITC because the maximum benefits are gained when working full time at minimum wage.

The EITCs also provides very little support to those without children. A nonpartisan think tank estimates that about 5.8 million adult workers without any children as dependents are taxed into poverty or impoverished further each year because their EITC is too small to offset their federal income and payroll taxes.

House Democrats are pushing to reform the EITC in the next coronavirus relief bill. Specifically, theyd like to tweak the credits phase-in so that workers receive more benefits for fewer hours worked, allowing those who lost their jobs and remained unemployed for the remainder of 2020 to maintain benefits similar to last year. They also would lower the minimum age for receiving the credit to 18 from 25 for certain vulnerable groups like those experiencing homeless.

Wed suggest also increasing the benefit for tax filers without children and lowering the minimum age for everyone so that the millions of young people graduating from high school and college into an economic recession can get additional support.

These reforms would not only help now but could also deepen the impact of the EITC by creating an income floor for more people as the economy changes, essentially creating something very much like a basic income guarantee. A key difference, however, is that most universal basic income proposals dont require recipients to work.

While we cannot fully predict how interactions between job losses and the tax and benefit system will play out, this moment presents an opportunity to test reforms that would benefit low-income working families for years and decades to come.

Rebecca Hasdell, Postdoctoral fellow, Stanford University; Alice Milivinti, Postdoctoral Researcher, Stanford University, and David Rehkopf, Associate Professor of Medicine, Stanford University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Image: Reuters

View post:

Why We Should Turn to Earned Income Tax Credit to Aid Those Struggling Through Pandemic - The National Interest

Heres How We Remake the Economy – Common Dreams

It has been several weeks since Valerie suffered a nightmare. After falling asleep, instead of suddenly finding herself at a grocery store checkout counter with no money, as happened so often in the past, or under arrest for crossing state lines to find shelter with her children, she has dreamt simply of flying, traveling, being alone in quiet fields, and reading.

Last month, Valerie caught up on her electric bill. She paid off some debt, tipped generously for grocery delivery and, for the first time in six years, deposited money into a savings account. In June, she gave her son the best birthday of his life, sparing no expense for a dart board, an indoor mini-trampoline, a box of kinetic sand, and Lego Minifigures for him and his brother.

At age 48 and recently divorced, Valerie, who wished to remain anonymous for this article, is raising her two sons alone on a declared income of $19,270 per year in a small city in the Mid-Hudson Valley, one hour north of New York City. She is one of some 39 million people in the United States who lost their livelihoods to the Covid-19 pandemic this spring. She could afford her expenses and the gifts for her children because the federal government did something rare and wonderful: In response to mass unemployment caused by the pandemic, it gave those who lost their jobs an additional $600 in weekly financial support to stay home and help them cover living expenses.

This week, however, the four-month period of Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation stipulated in the CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) will expire and those payments will stop. Republican lawmakers have publicly considered reducing the benefits to between $200 and $400 per week, and sending another round of $1,200 stimulus checks to taxpayers. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has shown no urgency for people like Valerie, who stand to lose between 50 and 85 percent of their income.

I have no idea what Im going to do, she told me over the phone in mid-July. Im terrified to start cleaning AirBnBs again. I dont really have the energy and Im nervous to be in spaces where people from New York City have been. Im scared to bring the virus home to my children.

Valerie does not have to imagine what it is like to contract COVID-19. Though she was careful to keep her distance from people, to wash her hands and avoid touching her face, she says she caught the virus somehow in April. As she waited to recover, her boys, ages 11 and 12 took care of their mother and each other. Her generosity on her sons birthday was also a thank-you to both of them for stepping up when she could not maintain their home and her future was uncertain.

My 12-year-old cooked and took care of the cleaning as best he could, she said. He kept us afloat. Children shouldnt have to take on that kind of responsibility, but they did. They were terrified and they never let it show until after I was well.

Twelve years ago, Valerie quit her job in IBMs intellectual assets and property division to take care of her first child, who was born with autism and four genetic diseases, three of which are shared by his younger brother. The boys can have allergic reactions to perfume and their own sweat, she says. Valerie homeschools the boys and spends between five and six hours each day preparing food that will not hurt them. She regularly monitors them for reddened lips and other indications that a kind of silent anaphylaxis is underway in their bodies.

The boys know that their circumstances are fragile. Since the pandemic began, they have had nightmares that they did not have before, including about the end of the world.

Theyre the healthiest kids that doctors who treat these disorders have ever seen, so Im doing something right, she beamed proudly. Im constantly looking out, but now I havent worked a proper job since 2007, so Im basically unemployable.

The boys know that their circumstances are fragile. Since the pandemic began, they have had nightmares that they did not have before, Valerie says, including about the end of the world.

My big guys not talking to me as much, Valerie said. He says: There are some things I need to keep just for me and I completely agree with that. My little one has never been terribly articulate verbally, but hes more emotional and needy. Hes requesting to spend a lot more time cuddling and reading, and pretending to fall a lot. Its just not like him to do that.

Valerie lives in one of many places in the United States where people have self-organized in beautiful mutual aid operations to help each other survive through the pandemic. She has called upon the group to get deliveries of prescription medications, medical supplies and health services, but before the pandemic, she rarely sought help from her neighbors.

I dont bother people, she said. I just figure that everyone is going through their own shitshow and I try to get through every day as best I can. When she really needs someone to talk to, she calls her father, an incredibly bright, intuitive and insightful retired blue-collar worker who lives in the Midwest and whom her boys adore. Custody rules prevent her from traveling the distance that would be required to live with him or her sister, hence her recurring nightmares about getting arrested for crossing state lines.

In the absence of a safe way to work and earn money, Valerie and her boys need the weekly $600 federal payments or some large portion of them to be renewed in order to survive.

I dont think theres a hope in hell of it happening, she said. But I do think that they should extend it to at least the end of January 2021. Im not up on all the proposals for what could happen. I skim the news very gently and from very specific sources. I think they should give everyone a universal income; $40,000 is an insane cap that I saw being thrown around randomly, but in New York thats nothing. Especially for single family households. I would like to see our tax money going towards supporting people to be able to make choices about savings, and not having to panic with a calculator at the grocery store. Or to be able to treat their kids to something in these extraordinary times.

I have to think theyre completely out of touch and not actual demons. Because it feels like they might be demons.

The kids should not be going back to school, she continued. I cant even go to the Social Security Administration office and get the name on my Social Security card changed back to my maiden name. I thought, I must be able to do this. The bars are open. But I cant. Theyre not letting us have access to Social Security Administration employees for urgent business because theyre protecting those employees. But theyll send children back to school like sacrificial lambs so the parent worker bees can work again and make the gazillionaires richer. Its appalling.

I have to think that these politicians dont understand the implications of their actions because theyre of such privilege at this point, she concluded. Theyve been making over $100,000 a year and getting kickbacks from everywhere, and they have great jobs lined up for after their time in Congress. I have to think theyre completely out of touch and not actual demons. Because it feels like they might be demons.

In late March, shortly after the pandemic erupted in the United States, my friend Peter Frase published an article in Jacobin warning that the bipartisan ruling elite would sooner sacrifice the lives of working people than allow a government response to the pandemic to diminish their power to profit. Four months later, the Trump administration has not just failed to end the pandemic; rates of COVID-19 infection and deaths are spiking as states and businesses reopen and close again, and frightened, vulnerable people are being forced back to work.

In addition to helping people pay their bills and stay safe by staying home, the $600 weekly Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation has been a lifeline for U.S. businesses too. Consumer spending the cash we spend on food, energy, entertainment and tchotchkes, etc. is a key driver of the nations economy. For every three dollars consumers spent before the pandemic erupted, they spent just two dollars under lockdown. Corporations and businesses panicked and the government took action. It passed the CARES Act, which among other things simply put cash into the hands of tens of millions of jobless people. By late June, consumer spending returned to within a few points of pre-pandemic levels. (Predictably, poorer people who must spend their money to stay alive are spending closer to pre-pandemic levels than wealthier people.)

As a general stimulus then, the $600 weekly pandemic unemployment payments were not just a lifeline to people in need. They kept businesses afloat as people spent their benefits into the economy.

With characteristic cruelty, Republicans tried to prevent these benefits from reaching unemployed people. As if the fabric of society were not coming apart, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham complained that modestly high unemployment payments would give people the freedom to refuse to report to life-threatening jobs in exchange for poor wages, and called for the payments to be reduced. Ignoring the fact that unemployment laws prevent people from collecting benefits if they turn down a job because of low pay, Grahamlater rationalized:If you pay someone $23 an hour not to work, theyre going to take you up on it You shouldnt be paid more in unemployment than you do at work.

But Senator Bernie Sanders fought for the unemployed, using his bully pulpit to publicly shame Republicans like Graham and threatening to halt passage of the CARES Act. Business owners and capitalists can thank the socialist for their recovered revenue.

Instead of preserving this vital support, the Trump administration and the conservatives in Congress are ready to pull it out from underneath people and businesses that are barely standing. The economy going back into recession is likely if we cold-turkey cut the extra unemployment insurance benefits, Moodys Analytics Chief Economist Mark Zandi told Fortune in late June. Additionally, conservative politicians and pundits are whining over some kind of imagined unfairness because two-thirds of the 25 million people receiving the $600 weekly payments are getting more money than their employers paid them 34 percent more, on median. (Personal income rose [more than] 9 percent in April and May from a year earlier, wrote the economics analyst Doug Henwood.)

These politicians are pissed that the unemployment program is actually helping people in need. And its not just Republicans who are the problem. In Colorado, Democratic Governor Jared Polis justified his decision to allow landlords to evict jobless people during the pandemic by simply asserting that, People should generally be back at work and earning money despite the fact that unemployment is rising in the state.

Conservatives are not just seeking to slash unemployment benefits. They are also working to shield employers from the threat of lawsuitsfiled by workers who get sick with Covid-19. Two Congressional Progressive Caucus staffers warned that the new policy would make it nearly impossible to sue corporations for Covid-19-related legal claims by workers [and] give employers a free pass to flout worker safety laws.

Being unemployed is not simply a vacation, free of onerous requirements, legal hazard and threats of punishment from the state. As the journalist David Sirota wrote recently, jobless workers can be harshly sanctioned for trying to collect benefits if they dare turn down any job, no matter how poorly paid or dangerous. In many cases, unemployment systems are now set up to deny benefits at every opportunity, says Michele Evermore of the National Employment Law Institute with the rate of erroneous benefit denials nearly doubling over the past decade.

According to Michigan Public Radio, Michigans automated computer system falsely accused more than 40,000 people of fraudulently claiming unemployment benefits between 2013 and 2015. After Republicans took control of the state in 2011, people accused of collecting benefits after refusing a job offer can be forced to repay four times the amount of money they received, plus 12 percent interest.

The chief scholarly justification for ending the payments comes from a trio of University of Chicago economists academics who decided that the most important contribution they could make to the general welfare in this time of danger was to scrutinize the amount of money being used to help poor people. Claiming twice in their May paper that they take no stand on how much support the involuntarily jobless should receive, they nonetheless provided anti-worker politicians and pundits with academic cover to lecture the public as if the main problem with the governments pandemic-economic response is that poor people have a little money with which to make their lives tolerable.

By contrast, these servants of the rich are not motivated to quibble with the hundreds of billions of dollars that the CARES Act shoveled toward corporations, millionaires and billionaires; nor do they question the Federal Reserves policy of providing incessant support to Wall Street but not working people and the institutions that benefit them.

To defend the $600 unemployment payments as both morally and economically necessary is not to suggest that the CARES Act is a sufficient solution to our economic problems. Nor, says Pavlina Tcherneva, Associate Professor of Economics at Bard College and a Research Scholar at the Levy Economics Institute and advisor to Bernie Sanderss 2016 presidential campaign, is the Democratic-led HEROES Act, which would extend the payments through January 2021 if Senate Republicans and the Trump administration would support it

What is happening to Valerie and tens of millions of other people fired, laid off or losing benefits, healthcare or housingis not simply natural it is the predictable and preventable consequence of established government policy. Alternatives are known, and working people, organizers, activists and voters must discover them and force them upon politicians and government if society and life are not to further deteriorate under pressure from the pandemic, a rigged economy and worsening, generalized fear.

Dr. Tcherneva studies the impact of unemployment on growth, income inequality and public health, and saving people from the hardship that awaits Valerie is the focus of her work. In The Case for a Job Guarantee, which she published this summer, Tcherneva explains how the federal government could provide a living-wage job to anyone who wants one.

What follows is an edited transcript of our conversation about what the pandemic unemployment payments meant for the economy and how the United States could enact a Job Guarantee.

Everybody is focused on how the unemployment insurance program is providing greater income for a lot of people, and the debate is whether we should retain it or not. But the real problem is not unemployment insurance. The real problem is the low wages in our economy. The fundamental issue is jobs and how poorly paid they are.

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Roughly half the workers in the United States earn less than $15 an hour. That is a very, very low level of income generation. The floor is really rock bottom. Unemployment insurance is inadequate and the job losses already caused by the pandemic would cause additional layoffs and other ripple effects. Im talking about bankruptcies, people not being able to pay their bills, storefronts shuttering, etc.

To stop these things from happening the government decided to use this one-time boost of $600 weekly payments, and it was the right thing to do. Its a really good policy. In fact, it tipped the scales toward the least advantaged workers! Thats a benefit, not a shortcoming. You have to appreciate that the market is already so skewed and that we already have such runaway inequality, so using the average workers income to calculate how much we should give to each unemployed worker as a supplement was a tiny rebalancing. I dont want to oversell it. The federal unemployment insurance is really just a Band-Aid, a patch.

Okay. So now we have to decide what to do next. The major proposals are problematic.

First, Democrats want to renew the unemployment insurance boost. Thats all well and good. But they dont really have anything else to offer. Remembering that the real issue is jobs and wages, lets think back to the Great Depression. FDR put a minimum wage in place and a few years later Truman doubled it. This is the sort of thing we have to think about doing now. If our federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, we have to at least double it to $15 per hour. But thats still not going to be enough. Well still have mass unemployment. So we need a policy that creates jobs. Democrats should defend continued unemployment insurance, but they have to offer something else as well.

FDR put a minimum wage in place and a few years later Truman doubled it. This is the sort of thing we have to think about doing now.

Now, Republicans on the other hand insist that we have to remove the unemployment payments because they disincentivize people from working. This, of course, is a cruel way of dealing with mass unemployment. It says: Lets just take away the little support that folks have so that they can go out and look for jobs that arent there. It doesnt matter how many incentives they try to create or how much they attempt to flog people into submission: People wont find jobs that arent there and the jobs that are there wont be well-paid.

Yes. They say the distribution of payments is problematic. They imply that the program is more unequal because lower-income folks are getting a little bit more money. But they dont recognize that income today is already extremely skewed to the top. You cant argue that the program unfairly distributes income without recognizing that the economy has been distributing income unfairly for a very long time.

I think its disingenuous when economists pretend that they dont have a moral position. Several times in that paper the authors claim: We take no stand on how one should weigh these pros and cons. Of course they take a stand! Their stand is the following: These payments create moral hazard, which is economist-speak for they would make people lazy, they would discourage them from working. This is a value judgment. Calling unemployment insurance a disincentive is a moral claim, not an economic claim. These people are fighting for their survival. If you suddenly get $600 more every week and youre able to pay your mortgage and youre not defaulting on your credit card, thats an aid in your fight for survival. These are the kinds of blinders that I think really need to be exposed. Economists pretend to have a neutral way of talking about issues. But moral claims and assumptions underlie every one of our models, and we have to expose them.

Right. But you dont have to be an expert to understand this. A lot of folks are saying that unemployment insurance is bad because it gives people more money. This has become a conventional talking point. You can look at this on the surface and say, Hey! Somebody is getting more money than they got before! It feels unfair on its face, I guess. But if you drill deeper and ask why, well then you can see that an extra $600 per week is not that much money. Just compare that to what rent costs each month in New York City. The $300 average that people normally get from state unemployment programs is not replacement income. Its not nearly adequate. If the $600 per week extra puts some people on top, then that really exposes how poorly some people are getting paid. Like I said before, less than half of American workers make roughly $15 per hour. And a whole lot of them earn even less.

Even if you dont approach the issue of unemployment payments from the cruel perspective, even if you approach it from the desire to help people, we still have to drill deeper. At the individual level, there are real consequences to these programs. For employers, too. And we cant overlook them.

For instance, I have a friend who manages a gym. He told me: I have to reopen the business and need to figure out who to bring back from the furloughed workers. On the one hand, I dont want to bring some workers back who were paid so little because theyll lose the $600 per week. But if I dont bring them back, then theyll become permanently laid off. I cant reopen my business with 100 percent staff capacity.

So, someones going to get cut, and its the low wage-folks. And they will become the long-term unemployed who have the hardest time getting jobs afterwards. There is a Catch-22 here: Low-income folks might not want to go back to work because right now they can have the $600 extra. But if they want to go back to work, say at the end of this yeardepending on when their benefits endthe economy wont bounce back to create enough jobs by then, and they will become the long-term unemployed and face higher barriers to re-enter the workforce.

We want to raise wages, but from the perspective of a business owner, theyre operating on razor-thin margins. Many businesses simply cant afford to pay double wages or match the benefits of the person who doesnt want to come in. On the other hand, there are so many unemployed people that, if employers want to hire, there will be many more people desperate for those few jobs, and firms will not feel the pressure to offer better pay.

What most people probably dont realize is that the government is essentially supporting the economy almost in its entirety. The CARES Act was $2.2 trillion. It was distributed very inequitably, but it was an enormous chunk: 10 percent of our economy. The private sector is on life support because the government is supporting it. The Federal Reserve is providing loans. Congress is appropriating more loans. And theres unemployment insurance. Theres going to be spending on COVID and crisis control. But theyre doing it in a way that props up a very unequal system, a system that is going to endure mass unemployment and mass devastation. When we shake off our phobia about spending, then we can start to ask better questions, starting with the question of what the government should spend its money on.

During the Great Depression, the U.S. rethought the foundations of the economy with the New Deal. We committed to stronger wages, stronger employment, better working conditions and stronger protections for workers. Today, the economy does not provide comparable economic security. We dont have universal healthcare amid a pandemic. In fact, millions of people who had health insurance lost it because it was tied to their jobs!

When we shake off our phobia about spending, then we can start to ask better questions, starting with the question of what the government should spend its money on.

So there is much to do. But we need to keep our eye on the ball abundant and better-paid jobs. I would like to see the government create big and bold investment and employment programs to address all the neglect in our communities, including improving our infrastructure and greening the economy. To me, the Green New Deal is the clearest articulation of what the future society should look like. It rebalances how we produce things. It focuses on local sustainable practices. It has a social component, which means were not going to just allow people to live in weatherized homes, were actually going to ensure that every person has a home; its not going to be a world of homelessness with some solar panels. The government will be spending enormous resources to deal with this crisis. We can choose to use those resources to pursue a green agenda that restructures both our economy and society and provides the employment security and jobs that we need right now.

So, I work on the federal Job Guarantee. For me that is a critical piece of the employment safety net. If youre an unemployed person, you will go into a public employment office and get a public service job. We will help you find work in your community. The Job Guarantee is a critical safety net and a critical component of the Green New Deal, which ensures that if we pursue this new world, everybody will have a place in it. We wont leave behind people in mining communities and towns dependent on fossil fuel extraction. Well clean up and rebuild our communities.

Contrary to what some politicians and private employers say, people want to work. But the private sector doesnt provide adequate jobs. So, the Job Guarantee steps in to fill the void.

Say youve been a stay-at-home parent for a long time now. Your kids are off to college and you want paid work. But where do you start? Your resume is blank. You could do some good community work locally through the Job Guarantee. In reality, people already organize themselves to work. In the mutual aid groups that have emerged in the pandemic, people are already doing work on the ground to address their communitys needs. You can make that the engine of job creation for the Job Guarantee. And the nature of work the forces that motivate it are fundamentally different from most of the jobs we have now. In the private sector, the profit motive ensures cost-cutting and leads to precarious pay and working conditions. With the Job Guarantee, the terms on which work is offered is for public purpose and the public good.

Now, lets step back. The Job Guarantee might sound daunting. The obstacles might seem insurmountable given todays politics. We are dealing so poorly with COVID, let alone other crises. But the thing is that nearly 100 years ago, in the midst of really desperate times during the Great Depression, we rethought the purpose of government in radical ways. This took leadership. I dont know if were going to get it now or if well have to wait longer, but this is the kind of moment were living through. It calls for the same kind of re-thinking and bold action.

I dont have a crystal ball to know what will happen, but I keep thinking of the years that led up to the New Deal. This kind of rethinking, activism and work on the ground was thriving for decades before FDR was elected president. From the early 1900s, even the late 1800s, this push for better working conditions was strong, it came from many corners of civil society and the work coalesced. Now, we have environmental problems and its a crisis that will only get worse. I see people once again challenging conventional wisdom.

I thought 2008 might be the moment to transform government policy and remedy the inequities in our economy. But our failure to do that has brought us here, more unprepared to tackle this crisis and the hardships it will bring. Simultaneously, rightwing governments are seizing on the economic pain. We need democratic solutions and hopefully we wont miss this chance.

There are many different versions of the UBI, so we really need to be very careful of what were talking about. I object to the UBI that just gives everybody $30,000 or $35,000 per year, rich or poor. Now, there are people who cannot work and should not work, and they need basic income. Thats different from UBI. In the Green New Deal and the Job Guarantee, there is income support for those who should not be working. If youre a student, for example, tuition-free college is a type of basic income. If we have universal healthcare, thats a kind of basic income.

In my Job Guarantee proposal, I argue that it should be coupled with universal childcare and universal child allowance, along with basic income support for veterans or people with disabilities. The point is that the income is targeted to the specific dimension of insecurity that a person is experiencing.

Silicon Valley advocates of UBI, not to mention rightwing supporters, are pushing it as a replacement for the existing safety net. Andrew Yang explicitly funds his $1,000 per month Freedom Dividend by having recipients opt out of Social Security! This should worry people very, very much. To me, UBI is a Trojan Horse and a false promise. It says, Ill just give you income. Go out and find affordable rent. Go find affordable childcare. People who have decent salaries today already cant find these things!

So UBI does not solve these other problems that we face. It always resonates more with upper middle class individuals. Working folks who are juggling two or three jobs want to work, and they want stable, good work. But the hate mail I get is usually from some college-educated person who tells me: I would like to spend my life gardening. Why are you against universal basic income? And Im thinking, Well, I dont want to lose our hard-fought-for social safety net, and I want an economy that provides jobs for those who want them.

To me, [Universal Basic Income] is a Trojan Horse and a false promise. It says, Ill just give you income. Go out and find affordable rent. Go find affordable childcare. People who have decent salaries today already cant find these things!

I think weve been doing a pretty good job of debunking the myth that the government cant afford these programs. Remember, in response to COVID we passed an enormous budget overnight. We did the same thing during the 2008 financial crisis. In these moments of crisis, the government musters the public resources, the fiscal power, and they pass a budget. I think we should always reject the question of But how we will pay for it? It is quite clear that when a policy is a priority, there is no problem funding it.

So first we must recognize that the federal government is self-funding. It already has the financial resources. It pays for the Job Guarantee or the Green New Deal the way it pays for everything else: by appropriating budgets which the Treasury and the Federal Reserve coordinate to fund. Unlike state governments, the federal government does not depend on tax revenue to spend. It is the issuer of currency. It has a public monopoly, and if you have the monopoly on issuing dollars, how can you possibly run out of them? Most people just dont focus on this very basic fact of life. The government issues the dollar, and every expenditure it appropriates through Congress results in an injection of new dollars into the economy. Tax payments represent the retrieval of those dollars. Taxes are not a funding mechanism.

So think of it like this: Votes fund programs. As long as you can muster up the votes, then the sovereign monetary institutions of the government the Treasury and the Federal Reserve coordinate to make all payments. Again, the government will be paying for the crisis one way or another. The question is: Will it spend and use resources in reaction to mass immiseration and environmental destruction? Or will it spend them for prevention and the rebuilding of our economy?

Yes. Frankly, I find the positions of some people on the left baffling. Look, there are two things that conservatives have no problem doing. One, they never hesitate to use the power of the public purse to pursue their reactionary agenda. Never. And they have been extremely clear, from Reagan to Cheney to Trump: the deficit doesnt matter. We print our own money. But many on the left refuse to acknowledge this basic fact and hide behind a fake respectability. By clinging to sound finance they cripple their own policy agenda. So, what kind of fight are you fighting when you dont have all the tools in the arsenal?

The other issue is jobs. In desperate times, the right will have no trouble launching punitive workfare programs. For the unemployed, these programs will still be considered better than no jobs at all. What is the lefts alternative? In my view, it is the Job Guarantee. That is the alternative to workfare: a voluntary, decent public option for jobs.

But many on the Left cling to universal basic income and some are clearly opposed to the Job Guarantee. They might as well raise the white flag. One cannot strengthen the position of labor by providing income alone when the threat of unemployment is perennial. In fact, in a market economy, income assistance is a wage subsidy for the employer. Why demand living wages from firms when the government has promised checks? And, of course, these checks will come at the cost of other benefits.

Once upon a time, the left was steadfast in their belief that decent employment is a basic human right. Today, there is a kind of surrender to the idea that jobs are forever gone, either because of robots or trade. But there is nothing inevitable about unemployment. Of course, we can create jobs. Of course, they can be good and well-paid jobs. Government guarantees all sorts of things in the economy, from bank deposits, to education, to certain types of loans or profits for government contracts. Guaranteeing employment is in fact not a radical proposition at all. The right has no trouble promising jobs. (Much of it is false, of course. Trump wont bring back manufacturing jobs).

But what does the left have to offer a community that has suffered mass unemployment? Subsidies for firms? Training programs for jobs that never come? Why not a Job Guarantee that creates decent, well-paid employment opportunities that are not punitive and dont make existing benefits conditional on working? A program that creates useful projects that serve the public purpose? Democrats need very quickly to develop a very credible message and a plan for jobs, one that instills confidence that the government will take the necessary bold actions to create opportunities in every corner of the nation. We did it in the 1930s. We can certainly do it again.

So, overall, money has to be rethought. Government policies, and specifically employment policies, have to be rethought as well. How will we engage the power of the public purse? How will we use it to rebalance our economy? How will we clean up the environment, provide care, guarantee healthcare and decent employment opportunities for all? All of these issues go hand-in-hand: sovereign spending, public investment and economic security.

Read more:

Heres How We Remake the Economy - Common Dreams

Millions of America’s working poor may lose out on key anti-poverty tax credit because of the pandemic – The Conversation US

The pandemic is driving American families to the edge, with tens of millions at risk of losing their homes and over 1 in 10 U.S. adults reporting their households didnt have enough to eat in the previous week.

While Congress debates extending unemployment benefits that expired on July 31 and other additional aid, theres an important program that already exists that could help struggling Americans get through the crisis however long it lasts. Known as the earned income tax credit, or EITC, it provides aid primarily to the working poor. In a typical year, it lifts more than 8.5 million people out of poverty, while improving the health and well-being of parents and children.

Since the credit depends on earned income, many families may be at risk of losing all or some of the benefit because so many were laid off as economies in many states shut down. Even as restaurants and other businesses reopen, its likely that many of those who lost their jobs will remain unemployed or underemployed for many months or longer.

Our own research shows changes to the structure of the U.S. economy, with the sharp growth of low-wage and unstable jobs, is weakening the EITCs effectiveness at fighting poverty.

Some lawmakers are trying to reform the EITC as part of the next coronavirus bailout to ensure it helps more Americans and make it more like a basic income guarantee. We believe doing so would not only ensure low-income Americans continue to have access to this vital tax credit during the pandemic, additional changes could also strengthen the program for years to come.

The earned income tax credit, which supplements earnings for many low- and moderate-income workers, has helped buffer economic hardship for single parents and other recipients since it was created in 1975.

Eligible taxpayers receive the credit after they file their taxes. And unlike a deduction, even those who didnt pay any income tax can receive the credit, which theyll get as part of their refund. Twenty-eight states and the District of Columbia also offer their own EITCs, typically based on the federal credit.

In 2019, taxpayers received about US$63 billion in credits through the federal EITC, making it the governments largest cash safety net program for working families with children. Recipients qualify for the credit based on how much money they earn and depending on their marital status and number of children. The benefit rises with each dollar earned until reaching a peak and then phasing out.

For example, in 2019, a single person earning $13,545 a year received $392, while a typical family of four with an annual income of $22,261 received roughly $2,951 which comes out to an extra $250 a month.

Put another way, a family with one child receives an average credit of 34 cents for every dollar of earned income, which rises to 40 cents for two and 45 cents for three or more children.

The tax credit has been tremendously successful. In 2018, the latest data available, the EITC lifted about 10.6 million people out of poverty and reduced its severity for another 17.5 million. And since its inception, it has reduced child poverty by 25%.

But the benefits extend well beyond providing struggling families with more income. Research shows the credit has helped improve the mental and physical health of mothers, improves perinatal health of mothers and their children, improves child development, reduces incidents of low birth weight among infants and improves childrens cognitive function.

It also enjoys strong bipartisan support because of its focus on encouraging and supporting working.

But the EITC only helps individuals able to find work, which becomes a bigger challenge in a pandemic or severe recession.

Our unpublished calculations from a national representative survey showed that about a fifth of the 25 million EITC beneficiaries in 2019 lost their jobs from March to April and over 16% remained unemployed in June, the latest data we have available. That means over 4 million working families could lose a large portion of their benefits in 2021, depending on a variety of factors.

While these problems are most obvious in a recession, theyve worsened over the past four decades as the labor market has changed.

The share of workers doing low-skill, low-wage work has jumped from 42% in 1980 to about 54% in 2016. And an increasing number of these jobs are in the precarious gig economy that doesnt provide stable incomes. That means workers are less likely to see a steady aid from the EITC because the maximum benefits are gained when working full time at minimum wage.

The EITCs also provides very little support to those without children. A nonpartisan think tank estimates that about 5.8 million adult workers without any children as dependents are taxed into poverty or impoverished further each year because their EITC is too small to offset their federal income and payroll taxes.

House Democrats are pushing to reform the EITC in the next coronavirus relief bill. Specifically, theyd like to tweak the credits phase-in so that workers receive more benefits for fewer hours worked, allowing those who lost their jobs and remained unemployed for the remainder of 2020 to maintain benefits similar to last year. They also would lower the minimum age for receiving the credit to 18 from 25 for certain vulnerable groups like those experiencing homeless.

Wed suggest also increasing the benefit for tax filers without children and lowering the minimum age for everyone so that the millions of young people graduating from high school and college into an economic recession can get additional support.

These reforms would not only help now but could also deepen the impact of the EITC by creating an income floor for more people as the economy changes, essentially creating something very much like a basic income guarantee. A key difference, however, is that most universal basic income proposals dont require recipients to work.

While we cannot fully predict how interactions between job losses and the tax and benefit system will play out, this moment presents an opportunity to test reforms that would benefit low-income working families for years and decades to come.

View post:

Millions of America's working poor may lose out on key anti-poverty tax credit because of the pandemic - The Conversation US

Why We Should Turn to Earned Income Tax Credit to Aid Those Struggling Through Pandemic – The National Interest

The pandemic is driving American families to the edge, with tens of millions at risk of losing their homes and over 1 in 10 U.S. adults reporting their households didnt have enough to eat in the previous week.

While Congress debates extending unemployment benefits that expired on July 31 and other additional aid, theres an important program that already exists that could help struggling Americans get through the crisis however long it lasts. Known as the earned income tax credit, or EITC, it provides aid primarily to the working poor. In a typical year, it lifts more than 8.5 million people out of poverty, while improving the health and well-being of parents and children.

Since the credit depends on earned income, many families may be at risk of losing all or some of the benefit because so many were laid off as economies in many states shut down. Even as restaurants and other businesses reopen, its likely that many of those who lost their jobs will remain unemployed or underemployed for many months or longer.

Our own research shows changes to the structure of the U.S. economy, with the sharp growth of low-wage and unstable jobs, is weakening the EITCs effectiveness at fighting poverty.

Some lawmakers are trying to reform the EITC as part of the next coronavirus bailout to ensure it helps more Americans and make it more like a basic income guarantee. We believe doing so would not only ensure low-income Americans continue to have access to this vital tax credit during the pandemic, additional changes could also strengthen the program for years to come.

The EITC success story

The earned income tax credit, which supplements earnings for many low- and moderate-income workers, has helped buffer economic hardship for single parents and other recipients since it was created in 1975.

Eligible taxpayers receive the credit after they file their taxes. And unlike a deduction, even those who didnt pay any income tax can receive the credit, which theyll get as part of their refund. Twenty-eight states and the District of Columbia also offer their own EITCs, typically based on the federal credit.

In 2019, taxpayers received about US$63 billion in credits through the federal EITC, making it the governments largest cash safety net program for working families with children. Recipients qualify for the credit based on how much money they earn and depending on their marital status and number of children. The benefit rises with each dollar earned until reaching a peak and then phasing out.

For example, in 2019, a single person earning $13,545 a year received $392, while a typical family of four with an annual income of $22,261 received roughly $2,951 which comes out to an extra $250 a month.

Put another way, a family with one child receives an average credit of 34 cents for every dollar of earned income, which rises to 40 cents for two and 45 cents for three or more children.

The tax credit has been tremendously successful. In 2018, the latest data available, the EITC lifted about 10.6 million people out of poverty and reduced its severity for another 17.5 million. And since its inception, it has reduced child poverty by 25%.

But the benefits extend well beyond providing struggling families with more income. Research shows the credit has helped improve the mental and physical health of mothers, improves perinatal health of mothers and their children, improves child development, reduces incidents of low birth weight among infants and improves childrens cognitive function.

It also enjoys strong bipartisan support because of its focus on encouraging and supporting working.

But the EITC only helps individuals able to find work, which becomes a bigger challenge in a pandemic or severe recession.

Our unpublished calculations from a national representative survey showed that about a fifth of the 25 million EITC beneficiaries in 2019 lost their jobs from March to April and over 16% remained unemployed in June, the latest data we have available. That means over 4 million working families could lose a large portion of their benefits in 2021, depending on a variety of factors.

Reforming the EITC

While these problems are most obvious in a recession, theyve worsened over the past four decades as the labor market has changed.

The share of workers doing low-skill, low-wage work has jumped from 42% in 1980 to about 54% in 2016. And an increasing number of these jobs are in the precarious gig economy that doesnt provide stable incomes. That means workers are less likely to see a steady aid from the EITC because the maximum benefits are gained when working full time at minimum wage.

The EITCs also provides very little support to those without children. A nonpartisan think tank estimates that about 5.8 million adult workers without any children as dependents are taxed into poverty or impoverished further each year because their EITC is too small to offset their federal income and payroll taxes.

House Democrats are pushing to reform the EITC in the next coronavirus relief bill. Specifically, theyd like to tweak the credits phase-in so that workers receive more benefits for fewer hours worked, allowing those who lost their jobs and remained unemployed for the remainder of 2020 to maintain benefits similar to last year. They also would lower the minimum age for receiving the credit to 18 from 25 for certain vulnerable groups like those experiencing homeless.

Wed suggest also increasing the benefit for tax filers without children and lowering the minimum age for everyone so that the millions of young people graduating from high school and college into an economic recession can get additional support.

These reforms would not only help now but could also deepen the impact of the EITC by creating an income floor for more people as the economy changes, essentially creating something very much like a basic income guarantee. A key difference, however, is that most universal basic income proposals dont require recipients to work.

While we cannot fully predict how interactions between job losses and the tax and benefit system will play out, this moment presents an opportunity to test reforms that would benefit low-income working families for years and decades to come.

Rebecca Hasdell, Postdoctoral fellow, Stanford University; Alice Milivinti, Postdoctoral Researcher, Stanford University, and David Rehkopf, Associate Professor of Medicine, Stanford University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Image: Reuters

Original post:

Why We Should Turn to Earned Income Tax Credit to Aid Those Struggling Through Pandemic - The National Interest

VOICE OF THE PEOPLE July 31, 2020 – TheChronicleHerald.ca

Manageable deficit

An $853-million deficit for Nova Scotia in 2020 looks terrifying. That is, until you examine long-term borrowing costs. A 30-year government of Canada bond costs the lender just one per cent interest. Long-term Nova Scotia government bonds can be sold for two per cent. So if the Nova Scotia government scraps the Yarmouth-Maine ferry, it can finance the $853-million deficit and have its liabilities pretty well unchanged.

How hard is that?

Michael Poulton, Halifax

Jim Vibert speaks about the health-destroying impact of poverty on Nova Scotians (July 29 column). A basic income for all would save tax dollars in the long term and transform lives in the process.

Its time to get serious about a basic income guarantee. I encourage all of us to learn more about it and weigh in. Political will for change will follow the will of voters.

Greg Hubbert, Berwick

Stephen McNeil, please note: Australia, Israel, Japan and Lebanon appeared to have brought the coronavirus contagion to heel in May. In July, after opening up, they all experienced alarming rises in cases, as have other countries.

Youd be inviting the same kind of virus invasion into Nova Scotia if you allowed in travellers from outside the Atlantic bubble. For all our sakes, keep the bubble closed. You once told us to stay to blazes home. We did that; we have contained the virus. Lets keep it that way. Can you not now tell outside travellers to stay to blazes home?

Errol Sharpe, HRM

Despite frequent advisories, many people still are not wearing a mask when out of their homes. Some are even openly resisting attempts to encourage mask-wearing, citing personal rights and freedoms.

Facial masks are simple measures that offer quite good protection from COVID-19. The beauty of this measure is that it is an act of personal concern for others more than oneself. As a recent ad stated, I wear a mask to protect you. You wear a mask to protect me. This reflects the fact that other people can be infected by the tiny droplets exiting our mouths or noses when we breathe, speak, sneeze or sing. A mask will catch the droplets so that they cannot infect another person.

Since even people who may not know they are infected can spread the virus, it behooves us all to be proactive in preventing further spread of this terrible virus.

I find wearing a mask not at all uncomfortable or limiting. I cannot understand why anyone would resist such an easy and effective way to avoid causing others great harm.

The Good Book asks that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Please think of others and wear a mask when out of your home.

Orland Kennedy, Brookfield

Read more:

VOICE OF THE PEOPLE July 31, 2020 - TheChronicleHerald.ca

Heres How We Remake the Economy – Common Dreams

It has been several weeks since Valerie suffered a nightmare. After falling asleep, instead of suddenly finding herself at a grocery store checkout counter with no money, as happened so often in the past, or under arrest for crossing state lines to find shelter with her children, she has dreamt simply of flying, traveling, being alone in quiet fields, and reading.

Last month, Valerie caught up on her electric bill. She paid off some debt, tipped generously for grocery delivery and, for the first time in six years, deposited money into a savings account. In June, she gave her son the best birthday of his life, sparing no expense for a dart board, an indoor mini-trampoline, a box of kinetic sand, and Lego Minifigures for him and his brother.

At age 48 and recently divorced, Valerie, who wished to remain anonymous for this article, is raising her two sons alone on a declared income of $19,270 per year in a small city in the Mid-Hudson Valley, one hour north of New York City. She is one of some 39 million people in the United States who lost their livelihoods to the Covid-19 pandemic this spring. She could afford her expenses and the gifts for her children because the federal government did something rare and wonderful: In response to mass unemployment caused by the pandemic, it gave those who lost their jobs an additional $600 in weekly financial support to stay home and help them cover living expenses.

This week, however, the four-month period of Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation stipulated in the CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) will expire and those payments will stop. Republican lawmakers have publicly considered reducing the benefits to between $200 and $400 per week, and sending another round of $1,200 stimulus checks to taxpayers. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has shown no urgency for people like Valerie, who stand to lose between 50 and 85 percent of their income.

I have no idea what Im going to do, she told me over the phone in mid-July. Im terrified to start cleaning AirBnBs again. I dont really have the energy and Im nervous to be in spaces where people from New York City have been. Im scared to bring the virus home to my children.

Valerie does not have to imagine what it is like to contract COVID-19. Though she was careful to keep her distance from people, to wash her hands and avoid touching her face, she says she caught the virus somehow in April. As she waited to recover, her boys, ages 11 and 12 took care of their mother and each other. Her generosity on her sons birthday was also a thank-you to both of them for stepping up when she could not maintain their home and her future was uncertain.

My 12-year-old cooked and took care of the cleaning as best he could, she said. He kept us afloat. Children shouldnt have to take on that kind of responsibility, but they did. They were terrified and they never let it show until after I was well.

Twelve years ago, Valerie quit her job in IBMs intellectual assets and property division to take care of her first child, who was born with autism and four genetic diseases, three of which are shared by his younger brother. The boys can have allergic reactions to perfume and their own sweat, she says. Valerie homeschools the boys and spends between five and six hours each day preparing food that will not hurt them. She regularly monitors them for reddened lips and other indications that a kind of silent anaphylaxis is underway in their bodies.

The boys know that their circumstances are fragile. Since the pandemic began, they have had nightmares that they did not have before, including about the end of the world.

Theyre the healthiest kids that doctors who treat these disorders have ever seen, so Im doing something right, she beamed proudly. Im constantly looking out, but now I havent worked a proper job since 2007, so Im basically unemployable.

The boys know that their circumstances are fragile. Since the pandemic began, they have had nightmares that they did not have before, Valerie says, including about the end of the world.

My big guys not talking to me as much, Valerie said. He says: There are some things I need to keep just for me and I completely agree with that. My little one has never been terribly articulate verbally, but hes more emotional and needy. Hes requesting to spend a lot more time cuddling and reading, and pretending to fall a lot. Its just not like him to do that.

Valerie lives in one of many places in the United States where people have self-organized in beautiful mutual aid operations to help each other survive through the pandemic. She has called upon the group to get deliveries of prescription medications, medical supplies and health services, but before the pandemic, she rarely sought help from her neighbors.

I dont bother people, she said. I just figure that everyone is going through their own shitshow and I try to get through every day as best I can. When she really needs someone to talk to, she calls her father, an incredibly bright, intuitive and insightful retired blue-collar worker who lives in the Midwest and whom her boys adore. Custody rules prevent her from traveling the distance that would be required to live with him or her sister, hence her recurring nightmares about getting arrested for crossing state lines.

In the absence of a safe way to work and earn money, Valerie and her boys need the weekly $600 federal payments or some large portion of them to be renewed in order to survive.

I dont think theres a hope in hell of it happening, she said. But I do think that they should extend it to at least the end of January 2021. Im not up on all the proposals for what could happen. I skim the news very gently and from very specific sources. I think they should give everyone a universal income; $40,000 is an insane cap that I saw being thrown around randomly, but in New York thats nothing. Especially for single family households. I would like to see our tax money going towards supporting people to be able to make choices about savings, and not having to panic with a calculator at the grocery store. Or to be able to treat their kids to something in these extraordinary times.

I have to think theyre completely out of touch and not actual demons. Because it feels like they might be demons.

The kids should not be going back to school, she continued. I cant even go to the Social Security Administration office and get the name on my Social Security card changed back to my maiden name. I thought, I must be able to do this. The bars are open. But I cant. Theyre not letting us have access to Social Security Administration employees for urgent business because theyre protecting those employees. But theyll send children back to school like sacrificial lambs so the parent worker bees can work again and make the gazillionaires richer. Its appalling.

I have to think that these politicians dont understand the implications of their actions because theyre of such privilege at this point, she concluded. Theyve been making over $100,000 a year and getting kickbacks from everywhere, and they have great jobs lined up for after their time in Congress. I have to think theyre completely out of touch and not actual demons. Because it feels like they might be demons.

In late March, shortly after the pandemic erupted in the United States, my friend Peter Frase published an article in Jacobin warning that the bipartisan ruling elite would sooner sacrifice the lives of working people than allow a government response to the pandemic to diminish their power to profit. Four months later, the Trump administration has not just failed to end the pandemic; rates of COVID-19 infection and deaths are spiking as states and businesses reopen and close again, and frightened, vulnerable people are being forced back to work.

In addition to helping people pay their bills and stay safe by staying home, the $600 weekly Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation has been a lifeline for U.S. businesses too. Consumer spending the cash we spend on food, energy, entertainment and tchotchkes, etc. is a key driver of the nations economy. For every three dollars consumers spent before the pandemic erupted, they spent just two dollars under lockdown. Corporations and businesses panicked and the government took action. It passed the CARES Act, which among other things simply put cash into the hands of tens of millions of jobless people. By late June, consumer spending returned to within a few points of pre-pandemic levels. (Predictably, poorer people who must spend their money to stay alive are spending closer to pre-pandemic levels than wealthier people.)

As a general stimulus then, the $600 weekly pandemic unemployment payments were not just a lifeline to people in need. They kept businesses afloat as people spent their benefits into the economy.

With characteristic cruelty, Republicans tried to prevent these benefits from reaching unemployed people. As if the fabric of society were not coming apart, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham complained that modestly high unemployment payments would give people the freedom to refuse to report to life-threatening jobs in exchange for poor wages, and called for the payments to be reduced. Ignoring the fact that unemployment laws prevent people from collecting benefits if they turn down a job because of low pay, Grahamlater rationalized:If you pay someone $23 an hour not to work, theyre going to take you up on it You shouldnt be paid more in unemployment than you do at work.

But Senator Bernie Sanders fought for the unemployed, using his bully pulpit to publicly shame Republicans like Graham and threatening to halt passage of the CARES Act. Business owners and capitalists can thank the socialist for their recovered revenue.

Instead of preserving this vital support, the Trump administration and the conservatives in Congress are ready to pull it out from underneath people and businesses that are barely standing. The economy going back into recession is likely if we cold-turkey cut the extra unemployment insurance benefits, Moodys Analytics Chief Economist Mark Zandi told Fortune in late June. Additionally, conservative politicians and pundits are whining over some kind of imagined unfairness because two-thirds of the 25 million people receiving the $600 weekly payments are getting more money than their employers paid them 34 percent more, on median. (Personal income rose [more than] 9 percent in April and May from a year earlier, wrote the economics analyst Doug Henwood.)

These politicians are pissed that the unemployment program is actually helping people in need. And its not just Republicans who are the problem. In Colorado, Democratic Governor Jared Polis justified his decision to allow landlords to evict jobless people during the pandemic by simply asserting that, People should generally be back at work and earning money despite the fact that unemployment is rising in the state.

Conservatives are not just seeking to slash unemployment benefits. They are also working to shield employers from the threat of lawsuitsfiled by workers who get sick with Covid-19. Two Congressional Progressive Caucus staffers warned that the new policy would make it nearly impossible to sue corporations for Covid-19-related legal claims by workers [and] give employers a free pass to flout worker safety laws.

Being unemployed is not simply a vacation, free of onerous requirements, legal hazard and threats of punishment from the state. As the journalist David Sirota wrote recently, jobless workers can be harshly sanctioned for trying to collect benefits if they dare turn down any job, no matter how poorly paid or dangerous. In many cases, unemployment systems are now set up to deny benefits at every opportunity, says Michele Evermore of the National Employment Law Institute with the rate of erroneous benefit denials nearly doubling over the past decade.

According to Michigan Public Radio, Michigans automated computer system falsely accused more than 40,000 people of fraudulently claiming unemployment benefits between 2013 and 2015. After Republicans took control of the state in 2011, people accused of collecting benefits after refusing a job offer can be forced to repay four times the amount of money they received, plus 12 percent interest.

The chief scholarly justification for ending the payments comes from a trio of University of Chicago economists academics who decided that the most important contribution they could make to the general welfare in this time of danger was to scrutinize the amount of money being used to help poor people. Claiming twice in their May paper that they take no stand on how much support the involuntarily jobless should receive, they nonetheless provided anti-worker politicians and pundits with academic cover to lecture the public as if the main problem with the governments pandemic-economic response is that poor people have a little money with which to make their lives tolerable.

By contrast, these servants of the rich are not motivated to quibble with the hundreds of billions of dollars that the CARES Act shoveled toward corporations, millionaires and billionaires; nor do they question the Federal Reserves policy of providing incessant support to Wall Street but not working people and the institutions that benefit them.

To defend the $600 unemployment payments as both morally and economically necessary is not to suggest that the CARES Act is a sufficient solution to our economic problems. Nor, says Pavlina Tcherneva, Associate Professor of Economics at Bard College and a Research Scholar at the Levy Economics Institute and advisor to Bernie Sanderss 2016 presidential campaign, is the Democratic-led HEROES Act, which would extend the payments through January 2021 if Senate Republicans and the Trump administration would support it

What is happening to Valerie and tens of millions of other people fired, laid off or losing benefits, healthcare or housingis not simply natural it is the predictable and preventable consequence of established government policy. Alternatives are known, and working people, organizers, activists and voters must discover them and force them upon politicians and government if society and life are not to further deteriorate under pressure from the pandemic, a rigged economy and worsening, generalized fear.

Dr. Tcherneva studies the impact of unemployment on growth, income inequality and public health, and saving people from the hardship that awaits Valerie is the focus of her work. In The Case for a Job Guarantee, which she published this summer, Tcherneva explains how the federal government could provide a living-wage job to anyone who wants one.

What follows is an edited transcript of our conversation about what the pandemic unemployment payments meant for the economy and how the United States could enact a Job Guarantee.

Everybody is focused on how the unemployment insurance program is providing greater income for a lot of people, and the debate is whether we should retain it or not. But the real problem is not unemployment insurance. The real problem is the low wages in our economy. The fundamental issue is jobs and how poorly paid they are.

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Roughly half the workers in the United States earn less than $15 an hour. That is a very, very low level of income generation. The floor is really rock bottom. Unemployment insurance is inadequate and the job losses already caused by the pandemic would cause additional layoffs and other ripple effects. Im talking about bankruptcies, people not being able to pay their bills, storefronts shuttering, etc.

To stop these things from happening the government decided to use this one-time boost of $600 weekly payments, and it was the right thing to do. Its a really good policy. In fact, it tipped the scales toward the least advantaged workers! Thats a benefit, not a shortcoming. You have to appreciate that the market is already so skewed and that we already have such runaway inequality, so using the average workers income to calculate how much we should give to each unemployed worker as a supplement was a tiny rebalancing. I dont want to oversell it. The federal unemployment insurance is really just a Band-Aid, a patch.

Okay. So now we have to decide what to do next. The major proposals are problematic.

First, Democrats want to renew the unemployment insurance boost. Thats all well and good. But they dont really have anything else to offer. Remembering that the real issue is jobs and wages, lets think back to the Great Depression. FDR put a minimum wage in place and a few years later Truman doubled it. This is the sort of thing we have to think about doing now. If our federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, we have to at least double it to $15 per hour. But thats still not going to be enough. Well still have mass unemployment. So we need a policy that creates jobs. Democrats should defend continued unemployment insurance, but they have to offer something else as well.

FDR put a minimum wage in place and a few years later Truman doubled it. This is the sort of thing we have to think about doing now.

Now, Republicans on the other hand insist that we have to remove the unemployment payments because they disincentivize people from working. This, of course, is a cruel way of dealing with mass unemployment. It says: Lets just take away the little support that folks have so that they can go out and look for jobs that arent there. It doesnt matter how many incentives they try to create or how much they attempt to flog people into submission: People wont find jobs that arent there and the jobs that are there wont be well-paid.

Yes. They say the distribution of payments is problematic. They imply that the program is more unequal because lower-income folks are getting a little bit more money. But they dont recognize that income today is already extremely skewed to the top. You cant argue that the program unfairly distributes income without recognizing that the economy has been distributing income unfairly for a very long time.

I think its disingenuous when economists pretend that they dont have a moral position. Several times in that paper the authors claim: We take no stand on how one should weigh these pros and cons. Of course they take a stand! Their stand is the following: These payments create moral hazard, which is economist-speak for they would make people lazy, they would discourage them from working. This is a value judgment. Calling unemployment insurance a disincentive is a moral claim, not an economic claim. These people are fighting for their survival. If you suddenly get $600 more every week and youre able to pay your mortgage and youre not defaulting on your credit card, thats an aid in your fight for survival. These are the kinds of blinders that I think really need to be exposed. Economists pretend to have a neutral way of talking about issues. But moral claims and assumptions underlie every one of our models, and we have to expose them.

Right. But you dont have to be an expert to understand this. A lot of folks are saying that unemployment insurance is bad because it gives people more money. This has become a conventional talking point. You can look at this on the surface and say, Hey! Somebody is getting more money than they got before! It feels unfair on its face, I guess. But if you drill deeper and ask why, well then you can see that an extra $600 per week is not that much money. Just compare that to what rent costs each month in New York City. The $300 average that people normally get from state unemployment programs is not replacement income. Its not nearly adequate. If the $600 per week extra puts some people on top, then that really exposes how poorly some people are getting paid. Like I said before, less than half of American workers make roughly $15 per hour. And a whole lot of them earn even less.

Even if you dont approach the issue of unemployment payments from the cruel perspective, even if you approach it from the desire to help people, we still have to drill deeper. At the individual level, there are real consequences to these programs. For employers, too. And we cant overlook them.

For instance, I have a friend who manages a gym. He told me: I have to reopen the business and need to figure out who to bring back from the furloughed workers. On the one hand, I dont want to bring some workers back who were paid so little because theyll lose the $600 per week. But if I dont bring them back, then theyll become permanently laid off. I cant reopen my business with 100 percent staff capacity.

So, someones going to get cut, and its the low wage-folks. And they will become the long-term unemployed who have the hardest time getting jobs afterwards. There is a Catch-22 here: Low-income folks might not want to go back to work because right now they can have the $600 extra. But if they want to go back to work, say at the end of this yeardepending on when their benefits endthe economy wont bounce back to create enough jobs by then, and they will become the long-term unemployed and face higher barriers to re-enter the workforce.

We want to raise wages, but from the perspective of a business owner, theyre operating on razor-thin margins. Many businesses simply cant afford to pay double wages or match the benefits of the person who doesnt want to come in. On the other hand, there are so many unemployed people that, if employers want to hire, there will be many more people desperate for those few jobs, and firms will not feel the pressure to offer better pay.

What most people probably dont realize is that the government is essentially supporting the economy almost in its entirety. The CARES Act was $2.2 trillion. It was distributed very inequitably, but it was an enormous chunk: 10 percent of our economy. The private sector is on life support because the government is supporting it. The Federal Reserve is providing loans. Congress is appropriating more loans. And theres unemployment insurance. Theres going to be spending on COVID and crisis control. But theyre doing it in a way that props up a very unequal system, a system that is going to endure mass unemployment and mass devastation. When we shake off our phobia about spending, then we can start to ask better questions, starting with the question of what the government should spend its money on.

During the Great Depression, the U.S. rethought the foundations of the economy with the New Deal. We committed to stronger wages, stronger employment, better working conditions and stronger protections for workers. Today, the economy does not provide comparable economic security. We dont have universal healthcare amid a pandemic. In fact, millions of people who had health insurance lost it because it was tied to their jobs!

When we shake off our phobia about spending, then we can start to ask better questions, starting with the question of what the government should spend its money on.

So there is much to do. But we need to keep our eye on the ball abundant and better-paid jobs. I would like to see the government create big and bold investment and employment programs to address all the neglect in our communities, including improving our infrastructure and greening the economy. To me, the Green New Deal is the clearest articulation of what the future society should look like. It rebalances how we produce things. It focuses on local sustainable practices. It has a social component, which means were not going to just allow people to live in weatherized homes, were actually going to ensure that every person has a home; its not going to be a world of homelessness with some solar panels. The government will be spending enormous resources to deal with this crisis. We can choose to use those resources to pursue a green agenda that restructures both our economy and society and provides the employment security and jobs that we need right now.

So, I work on the federal Job Guarantee. For me that is a critical piece of the employment safety net. If youre an unemployed person, you will go into a public employment office and get a public service job. We will help you find work in your community. The Job Guarantee is a critical safety net and a critical component of the Green New Deal, which ensures that if we pursue this new world, everybody will have a place in it. We wont leave behind people in mining communities and towns dependent on fossil fuel extraction. Well clean up and rebuild our communities.

Contrary to what some politicians and private employers say, people want to work. But the private sector doesnt provide adequate jobs. So, the Job Guarantee steps in to fill the void.

Say youve been a stay-at-home parent for a long time now. Your kids are off to college and you want paid work. But where do you start? Your resume is blank. You could do some good community work locally through the Job Guarantee. In reality, people already organize themselves to work. In the mutual aid groups that have emerged in the pandemic, people are already doing work on the ground to address their communitys needs. You can make that the engine of job creation for the Job Guarantee. And the nature of work the forces that motivate it are fundamentally different from most of the jobs we have now. In the private sector, the profit motive ensures cost-cutting and leads to precarious pay and working conditions. With the Job Guarantee, the terms on which work is offered is for public purpose and the public good.

Now, lets step back. The Job Guarantee might sound daunting. The obstacles might seem insurmountable given todays politics. We are dealing so poorly with COVID, let alone other crises. But the thing is that nearly 100 years ago, in the midst of really desperate times during the Great Depression, we rethought the purpose of government in radical ways. This took leadership. I dont know if were going to get it now or if well have to wait longer, but this is the kind of moment were living through. It calls for the same kind of re-thinking and bold action.

I dont have a crystal ball to know what will happen, but I keep thinking of the years that led up to the New Deal. This kind of rethinking, activism and work on the ground was thriving for decades before FDR was elected president. From the early 1900s, even the late 1800s, this push for better working conditions was strong, it came from many corners of civil society and the work coalesced. Now, we have environmental problems and its a crisis that will only get worse. I see people once again challenging conventional wisdom.

I thought 2008 might be the moment to transform government policy and remedy the inequities in our economy. But our failure to do that has brought us here, more unprepared to tackle this crisis and the hardships it will bring. Simultaneously, rightwing governments are seizing on the economic pain. We need democratic solutions and hopefully we wont miss this chance.

There are many different versions of the UBI, so we really need to be very careful of what were talking about. I object to the UBI that just gives everybody $30,000 or $35,000 per year, rich or poor. Now, there are people who cannot work and should not work, and they need basic income. Thats different from UBI. In the Green New Deal and the Job Guarantee, there is income support for those who should not be working. If youre a student, for example, tuition-free college is a type of basic income. If we have universal healthcare, thats a kind of basic income.

In my Job Guarantee proposal, I argue that it should be coupled with universal childcare and universal child allowance, along with basic income support for veterans or people with disabilities. The point is that the income is targeted to the specific dimension of insecurity that a person is experiencing.

Silicon Valley advocates of UBI, not to mention rightwing supporters, are pushing it as a replacement for the existing safety net. Andrew Yang explicitly funds his $1,000 per month Freedom Dividend by having recipients opt out of Social Security! This should worry people very, very much. To me, UBI is a Trojan Horse and a false promise. It says, Ill just give you income. Go out and find affordable rent. Go find affordable childcare. People who have decent salaries today already cant find these things!

So UBI does not solve these other problems that we face. It always resonates more with upper middle class individuals. Working folks who are juggling two or three jobs want to work, and they want stable, good work. But the hate mail I get is usually from some college-educated person who tells me: I would like to spend my life gardening. Why are you against universal basic income? And Im thinking, Well, I dont want to lose our hard-fought-for social safety net, and I want an economy that provides jobs for those who want them.

To me, [Universal Basic Income] is a Trojan Horse and a false promise. It says, Ill just give you income. Go out and find affordable rent. Go find affordable childcare. People who have decent salaries today already cant find these things!

I think weve been doing a pretty good job of debunking the myth that the government cant afford these programs. Remember, in response to COVID we passed an enormous budget overnight. We did the same thing during the 2008 financial crisis. In these moments of crisis, the government musters the public resources, the fiscal power, and they pass a budget. I think we should always reject the question of But how we will pay for it? It is quite clear that when a policy is a priority, there is no problem funding it.

So first we must recognize that the federal government is self-funding. It already has the financial resources. It pays for the Job Guarantee or the Green New Deal the way it pays for everything else: by appropriating budgets which the Treasury and the Federal Reserve coordinate to fund. Unlike state governments, the federal government does not depend on tax revenue to spend. It is the issuer of currency. It has a public monopoly, and if you have the monopoly on issuing dollars, how can you possibly run out of them? Most people just dont focus on this very basic fact of life. The government issues the dollar, and every expenditure it appropriates through Congress results in an injection of new dollars into the economy. Tax payments represent the retrieval of those dollars. Taxes are not a funding mechanism.

So think of it like this: Votes fund programs. As long as you can muster up the votes, then the sovereign monetary institutions of the government the Treasury and the Federal Reserve coordinate to make all payments. Again, the government will be paying for the crisis one way or another. The question is: Will it spend and use resources in reaction to mass immiseration and environmental destruction? Or will it spend them for prevention and the rebuilding of our economy?

Yes. Frankly, I find the positions of some people on the left baffling. Look, there are two things that conservatives have no problem doing. One, they never hesitate to use the power of the public purse to pursue their reactionary agenda. Never. And they have been extremely clear, from Reagan to Cheney to Trump: the deficit doesnt matter. We print our own money. But many on the left refuse to acknowledge this basic fact and hide behind a fake respectability. By clinging to sound finance they cripple their own policy agenda. So, what kind of fight are you fighting when you dont have all the tools in the arsenal?

The other issue is jobs. In desperate times, the right will have no trouble launching punitive workfare programs. For the unemployed, these programs will still be considered better than no jobs at all. What is the lefts alternative? In my view, it is the Job Guarantee. That is the alternative to workfare: a voluntary, decent public option for jobs.

But many on the Left cling to universal basic income and some are clearly opposed to the Job Guarantee. They might as well raise the white flag. One cannot strengthen the position of labor by providing income alone when the threat of unemployment is perennial. In fact, in a market economy, income assistance is a wage subsidy for the employer. Why demand living wages from firms when the government has promised checks? And, of course, these checks will come at the cost of other benefits.

Once upon a time, the left was steadfast in their belief that decent employment is a basic human right. Today, there is a kind of surrender to the idea that jobs are forever gone, either because of robots or trade. But there is nothing inevitable about unemployment. Of course, we can create jobs. Of course, they can be good and well-paid jobs. Government guarantees all sorts of things in the economy, from bank deposits, to education, to certain types of loans or profits for government contracts. Guaranteeing employment is in fact not a radical proposition at all. The right has no trouble promising jobs. (Much of it is false, of course. Trump wont bring back manufacturing jobs).

But what does the left have to offer a community that has suffered mass unemployment? Subsidies for firms? Training programs for jobs that never come? Why not a Job Guarantee that creates decent, well-paid employment opportunities that are not punitive and dont make existing benefits conditional on working? A program that creates useful projects that serve the public purpose? Democrats need very quickly to develop a very credible message and a plan for jobs, one that instills confidence that the government will take the necessary bold actions to create opportunities in every corner of the nation. We did it in the 1930s. We can certainly do it again.

So, overall, money has to be rethought. Government policies, and specifically employment policies, have to be rethought as well. How will we engage the power of the public purse? How will we use it to rebalance our economy? How will we clean up the environment, provide care, guarantee healthcare and decent employment opportunities for all? All of these issues go hand-in-hand: sovereign spending, public investment and economic security.

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Heres How We Remake the Economy - Common Dreams

Health unit calls for universal basic income – The North Bay Nugget

North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit

Len Gillis, Local Journalism Initiative

Food insecurity has been identified as a public health issue in some parts of Northern Ontario for a few years now, and the COVID-19 pandemic has made it worse.The issue has prompted the North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit to ask the prime minister to support the idea of creating a universal basic income for all Canadian families enough that they can afford to buy groceries.Kendra Patrick, a public health dietitian with the health unit, says food insecurity refers to a household that does not have enough money to buy healthy food.Oh yeah, it is an ongoing issue for sure, Patrick says from her office in North Bay.We know this is a public health issue. It causes lots of other health effects. For instance, it can lead to higher rates of diabetes, high blood pressure, and even mental health issues like anxiety and depression.And we know that in our district one in seven households are food insecure. Thats quite a big proportion of the population.Patrick was quoting a health unit report tabled in February 2019. While it was not able to gather statistics for a followup report this past spring, Patrick says she was able to provide newer information from PROOF, a Canadian research organization that monitors household food insecurity.Some research was done by Statistics Canada in May, Patrick says. They showed that Canadians who were absent from work due to COVID-19 were almost three times more likely to be food insecure than those who werent.So that is really significant. Unfortunately, we dont have local data to show, but I think we can expect the trend in Canada would also apply to our area.Patrick says the most recent statistics from PROOF revealed that 13.1 per cent of Ontario residents have food insecurity, whereas the rate in Nunavut is 57 per cent. In other parts of Canada, the rate runs from 12 to 21 per cent.Food insecurity is caused by inadequate income, Patrick says. We know that in general, ones income is a huge social determinant of health. So we know that folks who are earning less income are more likely to have lots of different chronic diseases, even infectious diseases. So there is a pretty well established correlation between income and health.This is not something the health unit regards lightly, she says.We encourage our residents to be vocal about these issues.Patrick says she is a member of a group known as Ontario Dietitians for Public Health (ODHP), which encourages civic action, such as letter writing in support of a universal basic income.Like our health unit, we have been advocating for this for a few years, she says.Patrick says the federal government has implemented several income-support programs during the pandemic. She says ODPH has asked the federal government to continue with income-support programs to continue even after the pandemicAbsolutely. We at the health unit actually did send a letter to the prime minister in early June. And so basically in that letter we are calling for a basic income now and after the pandemic, she says.The letter, which is signed by North Bay-Parry Sound medical officer of health Dr. Jim Chirico, says the idea of a universal basic income is winning support across Canada.We join the many provincial and national health organizations calling for immediate action to enact legislation for a basic income guarantee that protects and promotes the health of working-age citizens in our communities, the letter states.Even though the health unit was not able to go out and survey grocery prices this spring like it has in past years, Patrick says the important thing is that too many instances are occurring where ordinary people are not able to afford the price of healthy food because of their limited incomes.She says this tasks it from being a financial issue to a public health issue and thats why action is needed.

Len Gillis is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter with Sudbury.com. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

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Health unit calls for universal basic income - The North Bay Nugget

Job guarantee program could bolster economy more than …

While an all-party committee on poverty is reviewing what a basic income guarantee could look like on P.E.I., a suggestion by a Charlottetown social justice group is going one step further with a job guarantee program.

A member of the MacKillop Centre for Social Justice pitchedmembers of P.E.I.'s special committee on poverty on the idea that a job guarantee program would do more than a basic income guarantee to combat the root causes of poverty.

Pavlina Tcherneva is an associate professor of economics at Bard College in New York, who recently published a book titled, The Case for a Job Guarantee.

She says a job guarantee program is essentially an employment safety net a federal employment program administered locally that provides basic job opportunities, with wages and benefits, to those seeking a job that would be more beneficial than basic income.

"In my view, the job guarantee is better, but it certainly coexists with some basic income for people who cannot work for one reason or another but income alone doesn't create the job opportunities that are already missing," she said.

"We really need a transitional program, we need some sort of guarantee that folks that are searching for work can find it. And while basic income may be temporary assistance, folks who receive basic income report that they still need work, they are looking for work and they just cannot find it. So the job guarantee is that mechanism."

People who are out of work, for whatever reason, have a "terrible time" finding employment, Tcherneva said and have a harder time finding work than someone already employed.

"In fact, firms do not like to hire the unemployed, and then they slip into long-term unemployment, and they suffer enormous social and economic costs. So by comparison, the job guarantee will provide first employment opportunity, also the on-the-job training, as well as all of the other support services that unemployment offices provide," she said.

"By comparison with being faced by mass unemployment, having a job is actually really better from the point of view of the employer, but also the program itself will help with placement."

A federally-funded job program also serves to stabilize the economy, Tcherneva argued, ensuring people are able to continue to earn money and, therefore, spend money.

"As we are acutely aware, the economy goes through these cycles, ups and downs, and usually the collateral damage are people they lose their jobs," she said.

"It's that very expenditure that will provide the stimulus to the economy to kick-start private sector activity and employment. As that recovers, then people transition back into private sector jobs, and the public role shrinks, so it is an automatic stabilizer."

Tcherneva said there is often opposition to a job guarantee program, which she believes stems from an ideological bias, but some of the scrutiny that kind of proposal would face may be minimized, given the economic realities created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I think also there is this tacit assumption that somehow unemployment is unavoidable and that perhaps unemployment is even necessary to stabilize the economy I think that we really need to question these very deeply," she said.

"We have found occasions in our historical past where we know the government can guarantee employment. Unfortunately, that has happened during wartime but we certainly can do this for civilian purposes. I think it's just the shift of perspective and just realizing that the costs are there and we just can spend our resources in much more fruitful ways."

Meanwhile, P.E.I.'sspecial committee on poverty has asked for a five-month extension until November to decide whether to recommend a basic income guarantee for the province.

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Job guarantee program could bolster economy more than ...

The Gray Market: Why the Entire Art World Should Back Canadian Arts Workers Push for Universal Basic Income (and Other Insights) – artnet News

Every Monday morning, Artnet News brings you The Gray Market. The column decodes important stories from the previous weekand offers unparalleled insight into the inner workings of the art industry in the process.

This week, discussing a different kind of art-market guarantee

On Thursday, a coalition of more than 300 Canadian artists, arts workers, and institutions publicly released a letter addressed to prime minister Justin Trudeau and other high-ranking officials urging the creation of a permanent basic-income guarantee nationwide. And while the letter from our friends in the North technically only addresses the plight of their own population, its timing and its cogent framing of the larger issues also show why artists and arts workers everywhere should care.

Authored by artists Craig Berggold, Zainub Verjee, and Clayton Windatt, the letter continues a recent surge of momentum at the highest levels of Canadian politics for universal basic incomein its most utopian form, an unconditional regular payment that would be made to citizens, regardless of their employment status, to guarantee a minimum standard of living.

CanadianArt notes that the Parliamentary Budget Office released a report on national universal basic income (UBI) on July 7, largely in response to British Columbia senator Yuen Pau Woos advocacy for the relief it could provide Canadians buffeted by the grand shutdown of 2020. More than 1,200 residents, including many artists, also backed a pro-UBI petition sent to the Canadian House of Commons last month.

Although artists have been a major power source for UBIs propulsion into the Canadian consciousness, the brilliance of the new letter lies in its erasure of the boundaries separating art-world problems from wider-world problems. Its authors argue that UBI is needed to counteract the rise of a two-headed serpent: the worsening insufficiency of social-welfare programs at all levels of government, and the growing dominance of gig work such as driving for ride-share startups and food-delivery services. Heres the key passage for my money:

The gig economy is undermining decades of worker protections. As participants, many arts-and-culture-sector workers are subject to precarious short-term contracts, without access to benefits, paid sick leave, or even employment insurance. Today, the world of general labor is looking a lot like the way art labor has looked for decades.

In other words, these problems have been slowly metastasizing over many years, but the lockdown and its effects on the economy have accelerated them to a dire new degree. Establishing UBI, the letters signatories say, is exactly the kind of radical response necessary to solve such an insidious problem.

Yet Canada and its art industry are far from the only places on the globe under this same malicious strain. And this reality became clear by way of multiple distressing announcements from elsewhere in the art world this week.

Sabine Hornig, La Guardia Vistas (2020). Photo by Nicholas Knight, courtesy of the artist; LaGuardia Gateway Partners; Public Art Fund, NY; Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York/Los Angeles. Sabine Hornig and VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn Germany.

Lets start with the cold winds blowing out of arts institutions in New York City. On Thursday, my colleague Taylor Dafoe laid out the findings of a new report by Southern Methodist Universitys DataArts initiative: after combining lost revenue and shutdown-related expenses, New York cultural institutions have hemorrhaged a knee-buckling $500 million since March. Their laborers took arguably the most direct hit, as the shutdown vaporized over 15,000 jobs totaling about 21 percent of the overall cultural workforce.

The survey compiled responses from 810 of the almost 1,300 nonprofits given funding by the citys department of cultural affairs. Not surprisingly, the results showed the financial damage was disproportionately weighted toward smaller organizations; major museums suffered the least. Daniel Fonner, who spearheaded the study, summed it all up by saying, What was difficult about this project, in a way, is that a lot of it is just bad news.

British cultural institutions can relate. Also on Thursday, after being prodded by a skeptical, data-backed inquiry from the Art Newspaper, the Creative Industries Federationan organization with members from across the spectrum of UK arts professionsdramatically revised its mid-June estimate of the losses likely to be faced by the museums, public galleries, and libraries in its constituency. Instead of a nine percent, roughly 743 million ($934 million) decline, the federation is now anticipating a demon drop of 45 percent, or more than 3.7 billion ($4.7 billion) in losses. Cue an organ blast from a vintage horror movie.

A Creative Industries Federation spokesperson called the original projection an honest mistake at a time when many of our partners were incredibly stretched and thinly resourced. Which, if true, kind of just drives home the point here, doesnt it? When the arts sector doesnt have enough money, time, or staff to do its work properly, the end product will probably suck. Its just as true in London or New York as it is in Toronto or Vancouver. This would make a universal basic income well, universally valuable to arts workers around the world.

But the benefits are about more than just boosting the quality of cultural production, of course. Its also just a simple matter of quality of life. No other news clarified this concept as forcefully as still another reportthis one from outside the art world, published two days before the Canadian UBI letter and the two art-industry studies I mentioned above.

Visitors look at Do Ho Suhs site-specific work Home Within Home at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea in Seoul. Photo Jung Yeon-Je/AFP/Getty Images.

On Tuesday, the National Low Income Housing Coalition released its annual Out of Reach report, which crunches numbers on the affordability of home rentals for the lowest-earning laborers in all 50 American states. The results are so grim that they might as well have been handed over by a skeleton in a hooded black robe.

As CNBC broke down, the study found that a full-time employee earning the local minimum wage nets too little to responsibly afford a one-bedroom apartment in 95 percent of counties across the US and, for the second consecutive year, too little to afford a two-bedroom anywhere in the nation.

The findings are based on allotting no more than 30 percent of annual income for housingthe maximum advised by a wide swathe of budgeting experts, including US government officials, since the 1980s. (Except in certain special situations, minimum wage in the US currently ranges from $7.25 to $14 an hour, depending on the state.)

How many hours would a single minimum-wage laborer need to work on average to budget for these two types of homes? The answers are roughly 79 hours a week for a one-bedroom, and 97 hours a week for a two-bedroom. Which means this slice of the labor marketone that, perversely, happens to include millions of workers labeled essential during the shutdown, such as grocery-store staffers, delivery drivers, and food-service employeescould only manage to do so by either working a second full-time job, and/or taking on exactly the kind of gig work the 300-plus signatories of the Canadian letter identified as a central reason UBI is needed.

Yet many artists and arts workers arent much better off than minimum-wage earners, if they are better off at all. Yes, the growing ranks of laborers unionizing (and attempting to unionize) at US cultural institutions are, in a very real sense, rallying around deeper structural issues. But the fight for fair wages has pounded out a consistent drum track to their efforts, especially in arts hubs where, as more-on-point-than-he-was-given-credit-for New York gubernatorial candidate Jimmy McMillan noted, the rent is simply too damn high.

(Fun fact: When I see Andrew Cuomo, who has slurped up more money from New Yorks real-estate lobbyists than any other donor, laughing like a suited gargoyle after McMillan says his peace in that clip, my entire body momentarily ignites like the Human Torch.)

As much as I hate to say it, the situation is poised to get even worse for the rank-and-file American art world. Heres a bit of marrow-chilling context from the CNBC summary of Out of Reach:

With all of that as the backdrop, housing experts forecast a coming housing apocalypse at the end of July: Eviction bans put in place at the start of the pandemic are lifting, just as enhanced unemployment benefits expire. That could lead millions of households to face eviction and potentially homelessness as they choose between covering rent and basics like food and medicine.

All of which illustrates the point made by the 300-plus signatories of the pro-UBI letter to Canadian officials: the world of general labor is looking a lot like the way art labor has looked for decades. From Canada to New York to the UK and beyond, too many of us are all facing the same structural peril for the same structural reasons. Arts workers rights are human rights, just channeled through one particular prism.

Im not sure if universal basic income is the only, or the best, skeleton key to get the art industry out of this dungeon, but I am sure about this: the sooner artists and arts workers in one location can connect their local concerns to their counterparts elsewhere, as well as to those of the broader labor force suffering under the same injustices, the more achievable genuine transformation should be. Canadas art world sees it. Hopefully others will, tooand soon.

[Ontario Basic Income Network | CanadianArt]

Thats all for this week. Til next time, remember: fairness is simultaneously the simplest ask and the most complicated one of all.

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The Gray Market: Why the Entire Art World Should Back Canadian Arts Workers Push for Universal Basic Income (and Other Insights) - artnet News

Extra $600 unemployment benefits set to expire this weekend – WKOW

MADISON (WKOW) -- When millions of Americans began losing their jobs in March the federal government stepped in to provide a lifeline, $600 a week in extra unemployment benefits but now those payments are set to disappear.

Supplemental checks through the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program expire at the end of the month. But because of when these payments are issued and how the calendar falls in July, workers in Wisconsin wont qualify anymore after this weekend.

This means peoples employment benefits will be reduced and for some cut in half.

Democrats and Republicans in Congress continue to disagree on how to move forward with the program. The White House and Senate Republicans continue to but-heads in finding a way to scale back the program without overwhelming state unemployment agencies.

This is leaving many Wisconsinites worried about their financial stability.

For Sadie Tuescher the extra $600 and being enrolled in the Workshare Program allowed her health insurance business to stay open and avoid laying off workers.

I was then able to know my employees were happy and safe and were able to meet their basic needs at not go find jobs elsewhere, she said.

Workshare allows employers to keep workers at reduced hours and avoids businesses from closing.

On top of the program, Tuescher and her employees were also getting the additional $600 a week in benefits.

But without a guarantee of those funds, she worries some of her employees wont be able to afford basic needs.

Citizen Action of Wisconsin said once these extra funds expire the state will see a ripple effect because those payments will no longer be funneled into the economy such as paying for groceries or rent.

They'll be facing foreclosures, eviction, food insecurity and everything else that comes with your income plummet, said Robert Kraig, executive director of Citizen Action.

Republicans argue enhancing unemployment benefits could deter people from going back to work.

As lawmakers continue to negotiate a new deal the uncertainty weighs on peoples livelihoods.

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Extra $600 unemployment benefits set to expire this weekend - WKOW

Why Now is the Time to ACT on KUB – SACE – Clean Energy News

Amy Rawe | July 25, 2020 | Energy Justice, Tennessee, Utilities Take action in Knoxville at ACTonKUB.org/action.

We all can relate to the feeling of dread when we receive our latest utility bill and wonder, Is this right? Am I actually using this much electricity, or water, or gas? I thought I did a decent job of trying to use less this month so I could save money.

These are valid questions, so lets break down why, no matter how hard we Knoxvillians try to conserve, were still paying large fees on our monthly utility bills regardless of how much electricity, water, or gas we use. Lets also take a look at how, with a potential vote this fall, you could help change the structures in place that have led Knoxvillians to face unaffordable utility bills that force too many residents to choose between putting food on the table or keeping the lights on.

Every month, Knoxville residents pay our local power company, KUB (Knoxville Utilities Board), for utilities. Services provided by KUB include electric, gas, water, and wastewater. If youre a KUB customer, youll find up to $85 in mandatory fixed fees, or basic service charges, you are required to pay each month. Thats $85 before you even use a drop of water or a single unit of electricity or gas.

Breaking those basic service charges out, KUB customers pay a set fee of $20.50 for electricity, $10.90 for gas, $18 for water, and $35.90 for wastewater.

If youre wondering whether this is just the norm for similar-sized utility providers, know that its not. KUBs fixed fee for electricity alone is 50-90% higher than most of their peer utilities serving the largest cities in the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) service territory, including Memphis, Chattanooga, and Huntsville. Why is that?

For one thing, in 2010, KUB started a damaging trend of increasing basic service charges on customers bills on what appeared to be unjustified grounds, rather than being based on facts, data, and utility industry best-practices. For example, the basic service charge for electricity has more than tripled, from $6.09 in 2010 to $20.50 today. This negligent rate-making that severely impacts low-income, fixed-income, and single-resident customers prompted groups in Knoxville, including us at SACE, to launch the Freeze the Fees campaign in early 2019, which thanks to the thousands of Knoxvillians who spoke out in opposition of unjustified fixed fees, prompted KUB to temporarily halt fee increases on customers bills.

This was a win for Knoxvillians, but the fact remained that the fee freeze was temporary, agreed to for only at least two years. There is no guarantee KUB will not impose future fixed fee increases on customers bills that arent grounded in industry best practices.

Shouldnt KUB customers be aware of why their utility bill fixed fees are increasing? And shouldnt the KUB Board of Commissioners, who approve increases to fixed fees, be held accountable to being transparent about the process for determining these fees?

We believe so, which is why SACE is part of a grassroots coalition of several Knoxville-based non-profit organizations, community leaders, elected officials, and candidates* proposing the ACT on KUB initiative that would enact basic reforms to KUB through an amendment to Knoxvilles City Charter.

ACT stands for Accountability, Cost-Savings, and Transparency, which would be realized through our proposed charter amendment that would shorten the lengthy terms of KUBs Board of Commissionerswho oversee the utility rates and feesand revise the process of their election to ensure the community is better represented and connected to our publicly-owned utility.

Currently, the City Charter establishes that KUB commissioners serve seven-year terms, with a limit of two terms, for a total of up to 14 years. Seven-year terms are longer than the terms for utility board members of any of the other five largest cities in the TVA service territory, which range from 3- to 5-year terms, and are longer than terms of TVA board members (5 years), the Governor (4 years), and even the President of the United States (4 years). The excessively long terms for KUB board members currently authorized by the charter hinder accountability to the people KUB is meant to serve.

In addition, the City Charter currently authorizes the KUB board to self-select new board members by screening applicants and advancing only its preferred candidates to be considered for nomination by the mayor. We think that if the mayor were to receive all applications for board membership without the boards initial screening process, it would allow a broader slate of community members to be considered for nomination.

A charter amendment is the right vehicle for these reforms for two reasons:

KUB was established by the City Charter and is ultimately governed by the charter. The charter clearly states that for the KUB Board of Commissioners, The term of office shall be for a period of seven (7) years and no commissioner shall be elected or serve for more than two (2) such terms, or a maximum of fourteen (14) years [] Since this is in the charter, it cannot be trumped by any act of the Board, City Council, or the Mayor. To shorten Board members terms it must come in the form of a charter amendment to be binding.

In response to the ACT on KUB proposed amendment changes, KUB and Mayor Kincannon have offered some voluntary commitments to address issues identified by the campaignhowever, they are limited in both their scope and their permanency. Because the Mayors resolution is only an Executive Action and not a lasting City Charter amendment, there is no guarantee that her commitments would be continued after she is no longer in office. Unless changes are made to the City Charter, as the ACT on KUB amendment proposes, theres no lasting guarantee that KUB will be held accountable to serving Knoxvillians as fairly as possible.

[See more on why a charter amendment is necessary in this Knoxville News Sentinel Op-Ed: Fixed fees, makeup of KUB Board at heart of proposed amendment | Opinion]

The bottom line is that Knoxville needs City Council to step up and ensure proper oversight over our publicly-owned utility and show that they can operate independently of the Mayor to do whats right to bring lasting changes proposed in the ACT on KUB charter amendment to Knoxvillians. Anything less than that, such as the resolution Mayor Kincannon is suggesting, would be only a temporary change, allowing future KUB Board members or Mayoral administrations to easily undo the reforms. When that happens, Knoxville residents will once again be left paying the price.

Ultimately, when it comes to this very narrow and focused set of proposed reforms, there is virtually no reason why Knoxvillians shouldnt be given the peace of mind and assurance that placing these common-sense reforms in the charter would provide.

In order for the changes recommended in the ACT on KUB proposed amendment to take effect, the amendment needs to be placed on the November 3 ballot for Knoxville voters to approve as a change to the City Charter.

However, in order for Knoxville voters to have the chance to vote on the amendment on November 3rd, the Knoxville City Council must first pass the proposed amendment at their July 28 and August 11 meetings in order to allow it to be included on this falls ballot.

If you, too, are ready to bring more Accountability, Cost-Savings, and Transparency to KUB, now is the time to ask City Councilmembers to support ACT on KUBs proposed charter amendment, so Knoxville city voters can decide whether or not to approve it this November.As ACT on KUB coalition member Reverend Calvin Taylor Skinner, Co-Founder and Convener of One Knox Legacy Coalition, said during a virtual town hall held to discuss the amendment,

This is an issue that resonates with a lot of people, not just people in a particular income bracket. The issue of rates and transparency really transcends class and economicsAnd we know the power is with the people.

Its up to us to take a stand for Accountability, Cost-savings, and Transparency from KUB. As Reverend Skinner said, the power of this campaign really IS with the people.

CONTACT KNOXVILLE CITY COUNCILMEMBERS AND ASK THEM TO SUPPORT THE ACT ON KUB CHARTER AMENDMENT

*Supporters of the ACT on KUB proposed charter amendment include:

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Why Now is the Time to ACT on KUB - SACE - Clean Energy News

What is Basic Income? | Guaranteed Universal Basic Income

Basic Income, often refered to as Universal Basic Income or a Basic Income Guarantee is a system in which all of the citizens of a country get a certain amount of income from the government -- unconditionally. This income would be received regardless of other income from work or any other limitations.

Basic Income would, in theory, allow for the removal of many other government support programs which would no longer be necessary. It would also give citizens the ability to survive without work. In turn, those who do continue to seek employment would earn a living at a standard above the minimum.

This system is a more efficient option than having a variety of cluttered, complicated, and bloated welfare and assistance programs. The goal would be to spend a similar amount of money in total, but with a far more efficient result. The amount given each individual would need to be enough for a single person to survive. Consequently, this would result in a lower homeless rate, and less people without enough money to eat or pay rent. At the same time, it allows those who can and do work to have free income to spend on things that aren't bare necessities, fueling the economy.

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What is Basic Income? | Guaranteed Universal Basic Income

ECLAC calls for urgent regional cooperation beyond the pandemic to foster more integration and avert a food crisis – Dominican Today

(July 23, 2020).- The Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Alicia Brcena, urged the regions countries to implement urgent cooperation beyond the pandemic and foster greater productive, trade and social integration, during a virtual conference held today under the organization of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) and the regional office of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) for Latin America and the Caribbean.

Other participants in the webinar entitled Multilateral Action to Prevent the Health Crisis from Becoming a Food Crisis included Marcelo Ebrard, Secretary of Foreign Affairs of Mexico, in its capacity as President Pro Tempore of CELAC; Joseph Cox, Assistant Secretary-General of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM); Vinicio Cerezo, Secretary-General of the Central American Integration System (SICA); and Julio Berdegu, FAOs Regional Representative for Latin America and the Caribbean. Serving as moderator was Camila Zepeda, Director General for Global Issues at the Secretariat for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Mexico.

During her presentation, Alicia Brcena emphasized that the region is at risk of experiencing a true food crisis. She specified that more than 96 million people will be living in extreme poverty 11.8% of all people living in cities and 29% of the residents in rural areas.

This is a huge warning, the income of households is declining along with their access to the food basket. It is not that there is a shortage of food, it is that people do not have the resources to be able to acquire it. This comes on top of the low nutritional quality that people are experiencing, above all the poorest families, she warned.

She added that in the region, we are in a lost decade in social and economic terms.

This downturn will lead us to the worst crisis in a century: GDP will fall -9.1%, poverty will affect 37.3% of the population, and unemployment will reach 13.5%. In Central America and Mexico, the drop in GDP will be 8.4% with a big impact from the recession and unemployment in the United States. South America, meanwhile, will be the subregion most affected by the fall in international prices (-9.4%) due to its specialization in the production and exportation of commodities, she said.

With regard to Caribbean countries, she indicated that while they have managed the pandemic crisis better in relative terms, they are experiencing a great plunge in tourism and have high external debt (68.5% of GDP). The GDP of the Caribbean will fall by -5.4%, she added.

ECLACs most senior representative added that governments have taken important measures, but they are not enough to account for the magnitude of the gap.

She explained that to confront the crisis, ECLAC proposes implementing an emergency basic income equivalent to one poverty line ($147 dollars) for six months, at a cost of 1.9% of GDP, along with an anti-hunger grant equivalent to 70% of one extreme poverty line ($57 dollars), which would cost 0.45% of GDP. The Commission also recommends longer repayment periods and grace periods for credits to Micro, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (MSMEs) and partial co-financing of the payroll; conditional support for at-risk big companies in strategic sectors; expansive and progressive fiscal and monetary policies; and cooperation for financing under favorable conditions.

It also proposes a political compact for a welfare State and universal, progressive and distributive social policies aimed at dismantling the culture of privilege.

Alicia Brcena noted that to prevent the health crisis from becoming a food crisis, ECLAC proposes (in addition to complementing the emergency basic income with the provision of an anti-hunger grant) the granting of subsidies, debt restructuring and/or liquidity provision for agricultural and food-related SMEs and for family businesses, to guarantee the production and distribution chain.

Furthermore, she called for deepening regional integration through greater resilience in production networks, diversifying suppliers in terms of countries and companies, favoring locations that are closer to final consumption markets, and relocating strategic production-related and technological processes.

The senior United Nations official warned about the fragility of multilateralism and its exacerbation with the unilateral restrictions placed on the exportation of medical supplies in more than 60 countries. She also explained that in the post-pandemic period, globalization will not be rolled back, but there will be a more regionalized global economy organized around 3 poles: Europe, North America and Asia Pacific.

Finally, ECLACs Executive Secretary highlighted the importance of CELAC for expressing the regions needs and urgencies, with a single voice, on the international stage, primarily in areas such as the search for financial support for middle-income countries under flexible conditions and guaranteeing the unfettered movement of food, medicine and goods.

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ECLAC calls for urgent regional cooperation beyond the pandemic to foster more integration and avert a food crisis - Dominican Today

‘A recovery that puts people first’: A group of young Australians is demanding a government job guarantee to fight both soaring unemployment and…

While the coronavirus itself might be indiscriminate, its economic impact has certainly hit young people the hardest.

Youth unemployment has risen to 16.4%, more than double the headline rate, with government forecasts pointing to more pain ahead.

As Treasury presented its budget update inside Parliament House on Thursday, young Australians marched outside to demand genuine reform.

Young people all over the country are being left behind. We need an approach to recovering from this crisis that puts people first and creates good jobs and a society that works for all of us, protest organiser Bella Himmelreich said.

The demonstration is part of the Tomorrow Movement, a relatively new national grassroots group led by volunteers rallying for major economic and climate reforms.

With Australia headed for its first recession in three decades, they are urging policymakers to look for new economic solutions rather than returning to policies that the group say have failed time and time again.

Young people were already suffering before the coronavirus crisis [with] high unemployment, unaffordable housing and a climate crisis. We refuse to go back to a world that didnt work for all of us, Himmelreich said. Thats why well keep fighting for a recovery that puts people first.

To put the country back to work and kickstart a genuine recovery, the group proposes policymakers adopt whats known as a job guarantee. It would essentially see the government unconditionally hire all Australians who are looking for work in full-time minimum wage positions.

If we want to get people back into jobs, theres no shortage of meaningful work to be done in public housing, public health, aged care, climate, the arts and so many other areas, communications lead James Clark told Business Insider Australia. Why not put the country to work to meet the shortages we know we have?

We have to rebuild the economy but theres no point rebuilding it the way it was before because it simply wasnt working for most people, and it was especially failing the young, he said.

The idea, while extreme for a Coalition government, has been endorsed by union groups including the United Workers Union as well as GetUp.

These arent radical ideas. In a country as wealthy as Australia, theyre common sense and basic decency, GetUp organisers said, outlining the policy as part of their proposed economic blueprint.

While the policy has been floating around for some time, progressive campaigners see the current coronavirus crisis as the perfect opportunity to be bold. Take Spain, which this month embarked on the worlds largest experiment with a universal basic income for 850,000 of its citizens. Even Modern Monetary Theory (MMT), the idea that governments like Australia can essentially print money without restraint, has become a mainstay of the news cycle.

However, while there might be growing public appetite for progressive solutions, the Morrison government is going in the other direction. It revealed it will take a knife to wage subsidies and welfare in September, a move Himmelreich and others naturally oppose.

Pushing people into poverty doesnt create jobs, it just makes it harder for hundreds of thousands of people to survive. The government must keep the rate of all social security payments above the poverty line, Himmelreich said.

The government will cut $300 from the fortnightly payment in September, with most of the 1.6 million recipients to be reduced to $815. Modelling from the Australia Institute shows the move will push 375,000 Australians, including 80,000 children, below the poverty line.

With the current coronavirus supplement due to end entirely in December, unemployed Australians will then have to make do with just $282 a week.

The Morrison government justifies the cuts on the premise that heightened welfare discourages Australians from finding work. From August, recipients will again be required to meet mutual obligations, requiring them to apply for a determined number of positions in order to qualify for payments.

However, with hundreds of thousands more Australians expected to lose their jobs over the next six months, the activists at the Tomorrow Movement arent buying it.

Young people are looking around and they know there are no jobs. Now theyre being told they need to go and apply for jobs that dont exist, Clark said. If youre in Melbourne and all of your experience is in hospitality or retail, how on earth are you meant to find a job at the moment?

Part of registered charity Young Campaigns, the Tomorrow Movement is planning a series of protests against the cuts. Itll see young people take action on 18 September to warn theres no turning back.

The group is rallying for something akin to Americas Green New Deal, promoting the idea that twin economic and climate crises can be addressed collectively, through targeted public spending and the rapid growth of sustainable industries. Its this idea that forms the very core of the movement.

A lot of young people dont really see much point in getting through the pandemic only for climate change to ruin their lives in 20 years anyway, Clark said.

Our mission is to help them find their voices and mobilise to fight for the future.

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'A recovery that puts people first': A group of young Australians is demanding a government job guarantee to fight both soaring unemployment and...

Analysis: Behind the legal maneuvering in the Reclaim Idaho initiative – Idaho EdNews

In the long list of unexpected news stories from 2020, theres this: A fight over funding Idaho public schools has reached the U.S. Supreme Court.

But lets take a break from writing about the legal maneuvers in the Reclaim Idaho K-12 voter initiative lawsuit.

Its big picture time. It comes down to two fundamental questions: How much should Idaho spend on public schools, and who ought to dig into their pockets to pay? This is a fight we all could have seen coming. Because its a fight weve been having for years.

The Reclaim Idaho Invest in Idaho initiative is, in essence, a reassignment of the education investment. If Reclaim Idaho succeeds in getting the initiative on the November ballot, if it passes, and if the 2021 Legislature enacts it more or less intact three separate and big ifs the K-12 funding picture changes significantly.

Corporations and wealthy Idahoans would pay directly into a fund for K-12, to the tune of $170 million to $200 million annually. The higher income taxes would affect only Idahoans making more than $250,000 or couples making more than $500,000 so Reclaim Idaho argues that it is proposing a tax increase for just 5 percent of the population.

The income taxes are somewhat but not exactly aligned with Idahos ever-growing supplemental property tax levy bill. Idahoans have a proven history of voting for taxes for schools, and the supplemental levies prove it. In 2019-20, Idahoans paid $214 million in voter-passed supplemental levies, nearly twice as much as they paid a decade ago.

So, will the new income taxes replace these property taxes, reducing the reliance on a tax Idahoans have long reviled? Not necessarily.

Its possible that property taxes will go down in some districts and that some districts may decide not to run supplemental levies, Reclaim Idaho says on its own website. However, there is no guarantee. Districts may decide to continue to raise local levy dollars in order to supplement new state dollars.

Of course, theres no way to guarantee what will happen with supplementals, which are on the books in 92 of Idahos 115 school districts. Theres no guarantee that the long list of possible uses for the new income taxes everything from teacher salaries and full-day kindergarten to special education services and art, music and drama programs would line up with what districts say they need, and what local voters are willing to finance.

And, of course, Reclaim Idaho cannot (and does not) promote its initiative as both a tax shift and a K-12 funding boost. In its Supreme Court filing Tuesday, Reclaim Idaho cited a recent National Education Association report that found Idaho dead last in the nation in per-pupil funding. As Reclaim Idaho Bonner County volunteer leader Linda Larson said in a June 6 court statement, My team of volunteers understood that the current level of funding for education in Idaho is a crisis.

And that message was resonating, Reclaim Idaho leaders say.

Before mid-March, and before the group suspended face-to-face petitioning, Reclaim Idaho said it was tapping into a growing cadre of volunteers. The group started in October with 143 volunteers. By March 10, the number had swelled to 546 volunteers, field director Ashley Prince said in a June 5 court statement.

From the middle of February to March 12, Reclaim Idahos signature count doubled from 15,000 to more than 30,000, co-founder Luke Mayville said in a June 5 court filing. That left the group more than halfway toward its goal, with an April 30 deadline. As Reclaim Idaho describes it, the only thing that halted the initiative was a global pandemic, which put an end to the signature drive and started a legal battle that has unfolded across three levels of the federal judiciary.

Maybe, indeed, momentum was on Reclaim Idahos side. The states lawyers have spent some of their time castigating Reclaim Idaho saying the groups own procrastination led to the initiatives demise. But Reclaim Idaho has already shown it knows how to get an initiative on the ballot, as it did with its successful 2018 Medicaid expansion drive. If group leaders say they were right on schedule, whos to say theyre wrong?

And maybe, once again, Reclaim Idaho had managed to tap into a reservoir of public frustration. After seven years of waiting for the Legislature to move on Medicaid expansion, Idaho voters were more than ready to do it themselves. Are voters just as frustrated about how much Idaho pays for schools and who pays the taxes that support K-12?

The Reclaim Idaho initiative challenges some very basic notions the Legislature holds about school funding and tax policy. While the Legislature has steadily increased K-12 funding in recent years, lawmakers have turned a blind eye to the increasing reliance on supplemental levies. And many lawmakers including House Majority Leader Mike Moyle, perhaps the Legislatures most powerful voice on tax policy contendthat the states corporate and personal income tax rates should be lower, not higher.

Right now, the state and Reclaim Idaho are arguing about the mechanics of online signature gathering, and the First Amendment implications of suspending an initiative during a public health crisis.

But lets not lose sight of the big-picture issue. The Reclaim Idaho initiative wont settle the debate over how we pay for schools. But it could put the question into sharper focus.

Each week, Kevin Richert writes an analysis on education policy and education politics. Look for it every Thursday.

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on KIVI 6 On Your Side; "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television; and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [emailprotected]

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Analysis: Behind the legal maneuvering in the Reclaim Idaho initiative - Idaho EdNews

In the wake of Covid-19, time to consider basic income: Senate report – Investment Executive

The effectiveness of the CERB as an emergency income support has led many people to wonder whether it is time to consider a more permanent solution, such as a basic income guarantee, the report said.

Among other things, the committee also made recommendations for restructuring CERB as a declining benefit, based on income, and improving access to the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS).

While the committee lauded the governments response to the pandemic including federal financial support programs, such as CERB and CEWS, noting that these likely prevented a more severe economic crash it also said that the government has used extraordinary powers to introduce these measures.

On March 24, Parliament passed legislation that granted the government greater spending power and exempted it from requiring Parliaments approval to expand its borrowing.

The report noted that the threat of Covid-19 shows no sign of abating in the near term, and, as a result, it recommended a return to traditional parliamentary procedures for government spending.

Parliament has a fundamental role in reviewing and approving government spending, the report said.

The committee also recommended that the government provide quarterly financial updates throughout the crisis, so that policymakers, lawmakers and Canadians have accurate information about the countrys financial health.

While the government and public service acted with commendable speed in implementing crucial financial supports, public and parliamentary scrutiny of spending measures will be crucial for Canadas economic recovery, said Senator Percy Mockler, chair of the committee, in a statement.

Looking ahead, the committee said that it will focus on recovery strategies when it resumes meeting in the fall and make recommendations for building a fairer and more sustainable economy.

We hope that our study will lead to improved programs and services that will see all Canadians share in the economic recovery. We look forward to laying out a vision for this recovery when we continue our study, said Senator David Richards.

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In the wake of Covid-19, time to consider basic income: Senate report - Investment Executive

COVID-19 on P.E.I.: What’s happening Tuesday, July 14 – CBC.ca

Prince Edward Island has one new COVID-19 case,an essential worker in his 30s who travelled internationally recently. He has been self-isolating since his arrival on P.E.I., says Dr. Heather Morrison. This case is not related to the twomost recent cases, she said at her regular Tuesdaybriefing.

Contact tracing and testing is underway on the previousnew case of COVID-19, a man in his 40s who is a health-care worker in the emergency department at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Charlottetown. More than 200 staff and patientshave been identified for testing.

About 20 people gathered in Charlottetown to draw attention to the struggle of seniors in P.E.I.'s long-term care facilities throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Small businesses are making adjustments asmask recommendations change, setting protocols for employees, seeking suppliers, and even offering discounts to mask-wearing customers.

P.E.I. Premier Dennis King says he is comfortable with Islanders travelling around Atlantic Canada and vice versa, but he is not seriously considering expanding beyond that yet.

Fishermen on P.E.I. are hoping the lobster industry will be better in the fall than it was in the spring.

P.E.I.'s tourism industry lost more than $27 million in direct earnings with the cancellation of the cruise ship season this year,the CEO of Port Charlottetown estimates.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown what can be possible with regard to a basic income guarantee on P.E.I., says the chair of the legislative committee on poverty.

Health PEI told employees in an email earlier this week thatall staff who come in contact with patients and who aren't able to physically distance must now wear medical masks.

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COVID-19 on P.E.I.: What's happening Tuesday, July 14 - CBC.ca


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