Pandemic Diary # 68
December 21, 2020
Feeding America projects that more than 50 million Americans will have faced hunger in 2020. That number is up from around 35 million before the pandemic. That translates to 1 in 6 people, including 1 in 4 children, experiencing food insecurity this year.
Due to COVID, food bank lines grow longer every month. You have seen the lines of cars on television, or as in my neighborhood lines of elderly with those shopping carts that are ubiquitous in areas where people can walk to the grocery store.
There are two pop-up food banks within walking distance of my home. They are outdoors so packing bags of food, along with being gratifying, is also safe during these times of COVID. As I work alongside great people like Dennis and Jennifer, Oscar, and Jose the hours and hours of packing bags tells me that the lines are longer than they should be.
I have always found it an absolute crime that in the great United States of America people must stand in line for food on a regular basis. Prior to COVID 35 million Americans, 11 million of them children, experienced food insecurity, and while that number seems immense, it is the lowest in decades. Thanks to our present never-get-along congress this food insecurity is now past criminal and has tipped into immoral.
When COVID first hit, the federal government was able to cobble together a package that gave most people a one-time stimulus check of $1200 and expanded unemployment benefits. But that was it. By the end of July, most people’s unemployment check of $930 was reduced to $330 a week, forcing people to make decisions about food, utilities, rent, and all the other basics in life. These petty arguments about how much is too much went on for months and months in the same Congress that never had a problem with enormous corporate bailouts or tax cuts for the rich.
According to a report by at the University of Chicago and the University of Notre Dame, poverty in America is experiencing the largest increase in a single year since the government began tracking poverty in 1960.
By November, 7.8 million Americans were in poverty. It is about to get worse. On December 26th the CARES Act is set to expire with up to 12 million workers losing benefits the day after Christmas. This will add 4 million Americans to the number of people that have exhausted their federal unemployment benefits.
To add insult to that horrendous figure is the fact that the CDC’s ban on issuing evictions during COVID ends on January 1st, placing more than 14 million Americans at risk of being tossed out of their homes come the new year. It is expected that nearly 5 million of these people will be on the streets on January 1st.
As I have written before, many of these landlords are individuals and the strain on their finances is immense, so a Congress that continues to sit on their thumbs not only affects the evictees but small mom and pop landlords trying to make ends meet themselves. According to a study by Stout, American households have an accumulated rental debt of 25 billion dollars.
This is not just a monetary crisis but a health crisis as well.
“The fact is that we’re going to lose lives in a massive potential proportion if we don’t find a way to solve keeping people in their homes,” said Ron Book, chair of the Miami-Dade Homeless Trust.
All of this while over the past eight months of the pandemic, America’s 614 billionaires’ collective net worth has increased by $931 billion.
Amy Jo Hutchison, a single mother of two, testified before Congress on February 5th of this year. She was there to ask Congress to analyze the poverty threshold in America. Her testimony is moving, and I truly would encourage you to watch it. But what I was taken aback by were the comparisons she used to show the ridiculousness of our system.
First, she pointed out that the salary for the people in Congress is $174,000 a year. As a reference, the average wage across all American workers is $51,960. Lawmakers’ salaries do not include benefits like a staff and travel allowances, which average more than $3 million per senator.
What Ms. Hutchison also did not add is that one half of all U.S. senators are estimated to have a net worth of over a million dollars. Meanwhile, the typical American household is worth about $109,000.
And unlike so many people in the United States at this time, members of the U.S. Senate are still collecting a paycheck while refusing to come to the table to extend aid to the millions who find themselves out of work through no fault of their own.
Ms. Hutchison went on to state that each member of Congress is allotted $40,000 per year for furniture. That is absolutely obscene, especially when members of the Senate could not get together to agree to help those that they serve. To help their constituents stay in their homes and put food on their tables during a world crisis they did not create, but suffer from.
Our government is filled with extremely wealthy people, which is why I feel they simply can not empathize, understand, or even see the growing disparity in this country.
I am powerless to do anything, other than utilizing my vote in ways that I feel may make a difference. What I can do is volunteer at food banks, donate my stimulus check to organizations that help, and ask that in this season of giving, you do the same.
A very simple internet search will find the food banks in your neighborhood, a few hours of your time, or a few dollars from your pocket will go a very long way to helping others.
I am disgusted that the people we elect to serve us have put politics over compassion, we should all remember that come the next election cycle.
San Francisco weather: 54 Degrees and cloudy
NYSE DOW compared to one year ago: +1668
COVID cases in the US: 18,272,224
Deaths from COVID in the US: 324,892
OED word of the day: ambigu -‘A meal or banquet at which many different dishes are served together; spec. one at which different courses are served simultaneously. Sometimes more widely: a mixture of things not usually combined. Now historical
Days since Shelter In Place was initiated: 281
Reading: The Pandemic Century by Mark Honigsbaum
My Black and White Photo:
Something Silly from the Internet:
- I love words. I want to thank Haggard Hawks for introducing me to the word chevrechoutisme.