How the COVID-19 Pandemic Has and Should Reshape the American Safety Net
21 Pages Posted: 15 Jun 2020
Date Written: June 12, 2020
The COVID-19 pandemic has delivered an unprecedented shock to the United States and the world. It is unclear precisely how long the twin crises, epidemiological and economic, will last. And it is difficult to gauge the extent and direction of the changes in American life these crises will cause. Nonetheless, it is beyond dispute that the COVID-19 pandemic is putting significant strain on both the ability of Americans to meet basic needs and our government’s capacity to assist them. Federal, state, and local government have responded in various ways to deploy existing safety net programs like Medicaid, SNAP (food stamps), tax credits, and unemployment insurance to meet the surge in need. At this early stage of the crisis, it is worth a) identifying the ways in which the pandemic feeds on and exacerbates both racial and economic inequality in America, b) analyzing the government response in detail, c) considering which changes should outlast the current crisis, and d) how government, in the future, should build social welfare programs that are better suited to meet the needs of all Americans in the coming years. This Essay tries to do these four things in a way that is cogent and useful to legal and lay audiences alike.
Keywords: coronavirus, covid-19, CARES Act, social provision, health insurance, direct payments, unemployment insurance, Medicaid, SNAP, food assistance, child allowance, tax, tax policy, recovery rebate, Families First
JEL Classification: H53, I13, I14, I1, I3, I38, I30, J65, K34, K32
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation