What’s the Cure for Coronavirus? Cash.

At this moment, Congress is scrambling to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic turmoil.

As stimulus packages are debated, we must take the lessons from the last recession to heart, and recognize too little was done, and far too late.

We don’t know how long this crisis will last—but what we do know is millions of Americans need cash in hand for food and shelter.

As workers lose out on hours, rounds of layoffs mount up and everyday life is rattled, many of us are recognizing the precarity that has already defined the lives of 4 out of 10 Americans who are working full time, but can’t come up with $400 in an emergency.

COVID-19 is a unique crisis in history—but the economic problems many are experiencing now are not new to millions of hard working Americans. This was, in terms of our economic health, a pre-existing condition: one exacerbated by COVID-19.

We must put money in the hands of people who need it, who will spend it, who will use it to support their families.

Marchers call for a $15 minimum wage in Minneapolis, Minnesota in April 2015. (Fibonacci Blue / Flickr)

A new policy developed by the Economic Security Project in partnership with The Urban Institute, will provide Emergency Money to the People. It would offer an immediate payment of $2,000 per adult and $1,000 per child for families earning up to $100,000, with recurring payments to follow. This would extend quick financial relief to 3 out of 4 Americans—an estimated 250 million people.

Direct cash payments should be:

  • Big: enough to meaningfully help people in this moment of pain. $2k per adult and $1k per child to start.
  • Recurring: payments should continue until the economic downturn is over.
  • Immediate: payments should immediately be distributed to people, not a payroll tax cut designed to work slowly over time.

Emergency Money to the People will have an outsized positive benefit for women and people of color: Women are eight times more likely to work poverty-wage jobs than men, and the racial wealth gap means people of color overwhelmingly earn less than their white colleagues. 

Before COVID-19, several elected officials—led by women of color—were making the case for an income floor for Americans. Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib had the BOOST Act, which would send monthly checks to more than half of Americans, and Senator Kamala Harris ran for President on the LIFT Act, also calling for monthly checks to families. These lawmakers and others—including Chairwoman Maxine Waters, Rep. Gwen Moore and Rep. Bonnie Watson-Coleman—are now leading the charge in DC to go bigger, given the crisis. 

Kamala Harris’s proposed LIFT the Middle Class Act would provide a tax credit matching up to $3,000 of earnings for single people and $6,000 for married couples. (Gage Skidmore / Flickr)

The Federal Reserve recently announced a $1.5 trillion cash injection into Wall Street to shore up the financial market.

But we also need a cash injection for Main Street to ensure we don’t repeat the mistakes of the 2008 recession that focused only on big business while doing precious little to improve the fate of hardworking American families. 

We are facing an unprecedented health crisis, and will soon be in the midst of a full-fledged economic catastrophe. We must learn from the mistakes of our past and ensure the most vulnerable Americans are able to weather the uncharted waters ahead.

There is simply no more direct and effective way to do so than providing immediate cash relief to those who need it most.

The coronavirus pandemic and the response by federal, state and local authorities is fast-moving.

During this time, Ms. is keeping a focus on aspects of the crisis—especially as it impacts women and their families—often not reported by mainstream media.

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About and

Aimee Allison is founder of She the People, an organization geared toward elevating the political voice and leadership of women of color as part of a new progressive political and cultural era.
Natalie Foster is co-founder of the Economic Security Project, geared toward building economic power for all Americans.