Throughout the pandemic, we’ve collectively faced financial strain and hardship. The lessons we take away from this experience should reflective of community experiences, not individual ones. Here are some of the lessons we’re thinking about as the United States reopens.
For most people, financial planning is not an individual activity
When sitting down to write out a budget, most people are considering needs outside your own. Maybe you have children to support, an elderly parent or grandparent to take care of, or a family member or friend who needs some help. For many, the pandemic has highlighted these relationships and placed undue financial strain on workers.
Affordable Housing Needs to be a right, not a privilege
With the financial hardships of the pandemic, staying caught up on rent has been a struggle for many households. Families have been forced to cut back on food and other necessities in order to pay rent. Especially in a pandemic where we need to limit social interactions to slow the spread of the virus, access to stable housing is a necessity.
According to The Eviction Lab, landlords have filed for 437,278 evictions during the pandemic. 437,278 households have had to navigate the life-threatening circumstances of eviction in a pandemic, and have been displaced and disconnected from their community. And, for every eviction, there are more who move out before they miss a payment, who cut back on food and medicine to make rent, who take up informal housing arrangements that exist outside the traditional landlord-tenant relationship.
This is unacceptable. Housing is a human right and needs to be viewed as one in our legislation. There is no personal finance lesson here about how to budget better. What we’re seeing is a catastrophic failure of our government to support the most vulnerable people.
Government bailouts prioritize corporations over people
The U.S. spent $4 trillion on a COVID-19 bailout. $2.3 trillion went to businesses, which in many cases were not required to show they were impacted by the pandemic or keep workers employed. $884 billion, or roughly one-fifth of the relief money, went to families and workers. And, only $250 billion went to health efforts, including payments to hospitals and increased Medicaid funding.
As the last two points made clear, the government has not done enough to prioritize the health and wellbeing of its people during a global pandemic. We’ve consistently seen government leaders press for economic reopenings at the expense of the people.
Mutual Aid is not a replacement for stronger social services
Throughout the pandemic, communities have come together to support one another. Mutual aid, acts of solidarity to build sustained networks between neighbors, has become increasingly popular. Community members are pooling resources to ensure everyone has groceries, working A/C in the summer, and more.
And, while these mutual aid networks have been life-saving throughout the pandemic, they are not a replacement for stronger social services. We still need universal healthcare, affordable hoursing, a living wage, and so much more. Our economic system should support and sustain communities where everyone’s needs are met.
With vaccines being distributed and businesses reopening, it can feel like life is returning to normal. But, as we reflect on the challenges of the past year, we also need to be aware of how normal wasn’t working. Before the pandemic, it was normal for workers to commute up to two hours to be in the office. Now, we’re embracing telecommuting and working from home.
How can the financial lessons we’ve learned inform our “new normal?”
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