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Opinion: Americans need a second stimulus 

It’s July. The temp is on the rise. The country is reopening at breakneck speed.

Things are about to get wacky.

It’s been four months now since life in these United States changed almost overnight. But March feels like a million years ago, and now our country’s approach to this viral pandemic seems a world apart: We’re watching most states grappling with increased cases while kickstarting their economies with wild abandon.

When the pandemic began, millions were reassured they’d get some financial help from their rich Uncle Sam in the spring. But summer feels different.

The statewide ban on evictions is set to end this month, which could lead to a sharp increase in homelessness. The extra $600 a week in CARES Act money set aside for the unemployed is also set to expire. In addition, many restaurants and bars, theaters and gyms, small businesses and large that shut down at the direction of governors have begun to reopen en masse — and we’re seeing the results. Several states have seen single-day infection records broken as experts and politicians argue about which wave we’re in.

Does it matter?

Without any coordinated effort from the federal government, we’ve essentially given up fighting COVID-19 and instead have resigned ourselves to living with the disease. But that does nothing to solve record-breaking unemployment and financial uncertainty.

We’re going to see March all over again and, without another round of stimulus checks bailing out the everyday American, the next hole may be much harder to crawl out of — both for Main Street and Wall Street.

The first round of stimulus money should have been one step in keeping all employees home until it was safe to return to work.

But the $1,200 provided to most taxpaying adults (except the many self-employed, the undocumented and gig economy workers who were left out) likely paid for a month’s rent, mortgage or food. That money is long gone — along with nearly one fifth of the nation’s jobs.
President Donald Trump has indicated that another round of stimulus checks could be ready to cash by August, which means July will need to be a month of no-nonsense bipartisan cooperation rarely seen during the first four months of this crisis.

And the argument that the stimulus would only add to the exploding deficit isn’t reason enough to withhold another round of payments.
“... This is not the time to get wobbly,” William G. Gale wrote for the Brookings Institution. “Additional federal relief would produce substantial benefits at low costs. We can learn from history and avoid policymakers’ knee-jerk tendency to cut off stimulus too quickly after a recession. During the Great Depression, in the 1990s in Japan, and in the past decade — in the U.S. but especially in the U.K. and continental Europe — law makers’ premature moves to austerity held back recoveries and, in some cases, created new recessions. The risks of doing too little now far outweigh the risks of doing too much.”

So far the risk of doing too much seems to be a pipedream, a plan better suited for the New Zealands and Vietnams of the world.

And unfortunately getting the House, Senate and president to agree on more stimulus is only part of the battle. If checks are cut, Americans should demand accountability this time around.
Trump did everything in his power to block oversight by inspectors general and other government watchdogs during the first round of stimulus payments.

Taxpayers must demand the protection of federal auditors and investigators who probe government spending.

“I’ll be the oversight,” Trump said as the last relief package was being negotiated with Congress — reassuring no one and overseeing nothing.

The results of Trump’s federalist experiment have been in for some time. States and the governors that lead them are on their own. The least the federal government can do now is keep the average American afloat, and stop funds flooding to corporate favorites that don’t need them. But don’t turn your back on the Capitol.

Things are about to get wacky.

Editorial board: Regan Foster, Bryan Grossman, Mary Jo Meade, Helen Robinson, Amy Gillentine Sweet

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