Today’s catastrophic jobs numbers are a direct result of President Donald Trump’s failed response to the coronavirus pandemic. The only way to reverse this economic calamity is to dramatically improve the federal government’s response. This is the worst unemployment rate the United States has seen since the Great Depression. 20.5 million people have lost their jobs since mid-March, and another 7 million have filed for unemployment since today’s data was collected. What’s more, the unemployment rate of 14.7 percent is likely understating how bad the situation is since many Americans have been forced out of the labor market entirely or forced into part-time work.
It did not have to be this way, and it does not have to be this way going forward. The administration’s own public health and economic responses to crisis have led to a situation in which the United States has the highest COVID-19 infection rate in the world, and now, the worst unemployment figures in a century. President Trump’s own experts have repeatedly said that widespread testing is the key to safely reopening the economy and getting Americans back to work. Yet more than four months after the administration first learned about the coronavirus, we still do not have the testing and tracing programs that would allow people to return to work without fearing for their lives.
We need a massive federal response to support the economy, allow workers to safely return to their jobs, and alleviate justified health and economic fears that will reduce spending and threaten the jobs of millions of Americans as long as routine activities carry a risk of hospitalization. By toying with disbanding the White House coronavirus task force and encouraging governors to reopen their economies before it is safe, President Trump and his allies have asked the American people to accept massive unemployment and widespread death. We need a comprehensive CARES 2 package that rejects this vision for the country. With CARES 2, Congress has an opportunity to get Americans back to work safely by providing extensive testing, personal protective equipment, and safety inspections. At the same time, CARES 2 should use proven methods to keep unemployment down, such as providing aid to state and local governments and cash assistance to the workers and small businesses that fuel the engine of the economy.
Today’s jobs report is reflective of a massive failure in leadership. It is long past time for our government to come together and act to protect lives, support families and communities, and get people back to work.