SEATTLE — Gov. Jay Inslee announced he will temporarily shut down restaurants, bars and entertainment and recreational facilities statewide — such as gyms and movie theaters — due to the coronavirus. Restaurants will be take-out and delivery only.
The order will last until March 31.
This is the headline as of last night.
I live about 40 minutes north of Seattle, along the I-5 corridor. Anyone who isn’t living at the bottom of a bog has watched the COVID hysteria unfold. That’s not what I want to write about today. I want to write about people.
Last night, restaurants and bars, my gym, just a 5-minute walk away, was ordered to shut their doors. This is a huge hit to the economy, that is obvious. But what is the government going to do to mitigate the damage?
The Federal Reserve cut interest rates to the same place they were during the Great Recession (2007-2009), in order to boost the economy. But does this help the bartender who is suddenly out of work for the next two weeks?
The average cost of an apartment in Seattle is just over $2,100 with an annual increase of 4% each year, according to Rentcafe.com. What do the bartenders and servers, the chefs, line cooks, and dishwashers Washington now do? What do the people who work at recreational facilities do? Single parents with mouths to feed who work wherever they can? Students with loans, who still work part-time to make the rent?
Depriving people of this income is a difficult decision to make. It sounds like it was one that needed to be made and the Governor of Washington, Jay Inslee, is probably right to do it–but in addressing one problem, he created another.
How will any of these people make rent? Pay for utilities? Childcare? Suddenly a full paycheck will be gone from their income.
This brings me to the problem that Inslee has created–yet not addressed: If a large percentage of people are having their income halfed for at least a month, and perhaps suspended indefinitely if things get worse, then should landlords and property management companies be entitled to collect their fees? Now, I know people who work for management companies, utility companies, and those who live off the rent paid them needs enough money to live on as well–but how many people will no longer be able to pay up?
I believe this emergency is an immediate argument for a UBI. It wouldn’t fix everything, but it would take a huge burden off everyday Americans. Everyone should be hitting up Andrew Yang right now to figure out how this could be implemented within months. A VAT (Value Added Tax) on 500 of the biggest most profitable companies would likely go a long way toward this. Sure, it might hurt some profit margins for huge corporations like Amazon–but so too will the fact that a huge portion of the population has not money to buy anything with. Do we let these people get evicted? Do we let them go without power, water, heat?
I can’t understand the consequences of what is happening right now–and neither can anyone else. I wonder when we’ll come out of this. One thing’s for sure, though–it will be a far different world than the one we left behind when we locked outdoors.