A COVID-19 Update

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What a long, eventful three months it has been!  We we are roughly just 3.5-4 months into the ongoing national battle with the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S.  So much has happened during that time (and since our last post on March 29th just three months ago) that it’s really hard to digest it all on a daily basis. How has the U.S. fared thus far?

Let’s recap:


  • On March 29th, the date of our last post, we had a tally of 139,039 confirmed cases in the U.S. and 2,438 deaths.
  • As of today, just over three months later, that tally has ballooned over 2,7MM confirmed cases and over 128,000 deaths.
  • Confirmed cases have dropped dramatically in NY and the entire NE region, while just starting to take off in various states in the SE and Sunbelt areas shortly after opening things up.  Many states, such as Texas, Florida and California, have halted or reversed phased opening efforts due to new outbreaks of cases in these areas.  This has included closing bars, restaurants, and in some cases, beaches.  The toll on small businesses including restaurants, bars, tourism industry, and workers in those industries is adding up.
  • Nearly 45MM total unemployment claims have been filed by workers and around 20MM jobs have been lost during this time.
  • Over three months ago, Congress quickly passed the H.R. 6201, Families First Coronavirus Response Act that the President signed into law providing aid to  individuals, families and businesses that cost approximately $2.4 Trillion.  As a follow-up, lawmakers enacted the CARES Act, a relief package of around $2 trillion, on March 27 to address the near-term economic impact the virus is having on families and businesses. Some of the key items in the legislation include:
    • Financial Assistance to Large Companies and Governments. Approximately $500 billion to assist companies that are critical to national security and distressed sectors of the economy.  $450 billion was earmarked to support businesses, states, and municipalities through a new Federal Reserve lending facility.
    • Direct payments to taxpayers. Taxpayers with annual incomes up to $75,000 (or $150,000 for married couples) will receive payments of $1,200; that payment amount will gradually phase out for higher income earners with a cap at an annual salary of $99,000 (or $198,000 for married couples). Families also received an additional $500 per qualifying child.
    • Economic support for small businesses. This support totaled around $380 billion, and was largely due to the  creation of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which allocated $349 billion in funding through the CARES Act to offer as loans to small businesses to help them avoid laying off their workers. Additionally, portions of the loans spent on payroll, rent, or utilities are eligible for forgiveness.
    • Further expansion of unemployment benefits. Unemployment insurance was extended by 13 weeks, allowing for benefits of $600 per week for four months through the end of July, and expanding eligibility requirements to include more categories of workers.
    • Federal aid to hospital and healthcare providers. About $150 billion was earmarked to help hospitals, community health centers, and other healthcare providers’ response to the pandemic.
    • Various tax incentives. Businesses are allowed to defer payroll taxes, which fund Social Security and Medicare. A number of other tax benefits would also be provided.
  • The Federal Reserve Bank has taken a number of different, in some cases, unprecedented, aggressive actions:
    • Lowered the Federal funds rate to between 0 – .25%
    • Up to $2.3 Trillion in lending to support households, employers, financial markets, and state & local governments
    • Direct lending to major corporate employers.
    • Support loans to small & mid-sized businesses.
    • Buying junk bonds for the first time ever and individual corporate bonds.

What have been the early returns on some of these actions?  Let’s take a look:

  • The stock market has rebounded quite sharply off their mid-March lows (DOW – 18,213, S&P – 2,191, NASDAQ – 6,631) , in all cases up over 40% since then, and just completed its best quarter in 20 years.
  • On March 29th, the DOW closed at 22,327, S&P 2,626, and NASDAQ 7,7774.
  • On June 30th, the DOW closed at 25,812 (up ~+15%), S&P 3,100 (~+15%), and NASDAQ 10,058 (+~30%), which reached a record high.
  • This morning, it was announced that we added another 4.2MM jobs in June, on top of the 2.5MM jobs gained in May.  The official unemployment rate ticked down to 11.1% from 13.3%.  The vast majority of these jobs, however, were just employees being hired back after the shutdown, and many at less pay and fewer hours.  Many jobs of the 20MM or so jobs that were initially lost may be gone or changed forever.  Time will tell on that front in the coming months as things develop with the both the virus and economy.
  • In many cases, “essential” workers are now earning less than not only the unemployed and nonessential workers and it is not sitting well with many of them.
  • This will likely change once the additional $600 a week many unemployed are receiving runs out on July 25th.
  • During this time, there have been widespread moratoriums on evictions and foreclosures. However, around 20MM renters remain at risk of eviction if Congress doesn’t act soon.

Police Brutality & BLM Protests

To greatly exacerbate these matters nationally, the lingering issues of policing and police brutality have reared its ugly head again with the brutal deaths of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and Breonna Taylor in Louisville, both at the at the hands of the police. Lengthy and often intense protests around many parts of the country have ensued, often including shocking acts of policy brutality on peaceful protesters, many of them on video.

With emotions already running high from the COVID-19 shutdowns, health, jobs/economic, and social impacts, these events seem to have ignited something in many American people.  There have been many calls and actual movements to defund police in various cities and create something radically different.  With that, however, there have been some recent pushback on those actions in some of those communities, so it be interesting to see where this goes in the coming days/weeks/months.  Amidst the ongoing and likely lengthy, contentious battle with COVID-19 in an extremely important, volatile election year, things could well intensify quickly on all fronts in the coming months.  The U.S. has become a a raw tinderbox just waiting to ignite again at any moment.  We will check back on it as things develop.



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David Himmelstein


Dr. David Himmelstein is a distinguished professor of public health and health policy in the CUNY School of Public Health at Hunter College, adjunct clinical professor at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and lecturer in medicine at Harvard Medical School. He has served as chief of the division of social and community medicine at Cambridge Hospital.

Nick Hanauer

Pitchfork Economics

Nick Hanauer is one of the most successful entrepreneurs, investors, and managers in the Pacific Northwest with over 30 years of experience across a broad range of industries including manufacturing, retail, e-commerce, digital media and advertising, software, aerospace, health care, and finance. He is a co-founder and partner of Second Avenue Partners, a Seattle-based venture capital firm that provides management, strategy, and capital for early stage companies. 

Barry Ritholtz

Ritholtz Wealth MGMT

Barry Ritholtz has spent his career helping people spot their own investment errors and to learn how to better manage their own financial behaviors. He is the creator of The Big Picture, often ranked as the number one financial blog to follow by The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and others.

Barry is the creator and host of Bloomberg’s “Masters in Business” radio podcast, and a featured columnist at the Washington Post. He is the author of the Bailout Nation: How Greed and Easy Money Corrupted Wall Street and Shook the World Economy (Wiley, 2009). In addition to serving as Chairman and Chief Investment Officer of Ritholtz Wealth Management, he is also on the advisory boards of Riskalyze, and Peer Street, two leading financial technology startups bringing transparency and analytics to the investment business.

Barry has named one of the “15 Most Important Economic Journalists” in the United States, and has been called one of The 25 Most Dangerous People in Financial Media. When not working, he can be found with his wife and their two dogs on the north shore of Long Island.

Richard Florida

City Lab

Richard Florida is a co-founder and editor at large of CityLab and a senior editor at The Atlantic. He is a university professor in the University of Toronto’s School of Cities and Rotman School of Management, and a distinguished fellow at New York University’s Schack Institute of Real Estate and visiting fellow at Florida International University.

Janet Gornick

CUNY-Stone Center

Janet Gornick attended Harvard University, where she was awarded a B.A. (psychology and social relations, 1980), an M.P.A. (Kennedy School, 1987), and a Ph.D. (political economy and government, 1994). She is currently a professor of political science and sociology at The Graduate Center, CUNY. From September 2006 to August 2016, she served as director of LIS (formerly the Luxembourg Income Study), a cross‐national data archive and research center located in Luxembourg, with a satellite office at The Graduate Center. Since September 2016, she has served as director of the James M. and Cathleen D. Stone Center on Socio‐Economic Inequality. The Stone Center includes the LIS satellite office, known as the US Office of LIS.

Ken Jacobs

UC Berkeley Labor Center

Ken Jacobs is the chair of the Labor Center, where he has been a labor specialist since 2002. His areas of specialization include low-wage work, labor standards policies, and health care coverage. He has recently worked on economic impact studies of proposed minimum wage laws for the cities of Seattle, Los Angeles, and San Jose, and conducted analyses of the public cost of low-wage work. Jacobs is the co-editor, with Michael Reich and Miranda Dietz, of When Mandates Work: Raising Labor Standards at the Local Level (University of California Press), an edited volume on the impacts of labor standards policies in San Francisco.

Steven Pitts

UC Berkeley Labor Center

Steven Pitts came to the Labor Center in August of 2001 from Houston, Texas. Steven received his Ph.D. in economics with an emphasis on urban economics from the University of Houston in 1994. His master’s degree is also from the University of Houston and he holds a bachelor’s degree from Harvard University. For the fifteen years prior to his arrival at the Labor Center, Steven taught economics at Houston Community College and, for five years, he was an adjunct lecturer in the African American Studies Program at the University of Houston. At the Labor Center, Steven focuses on issues of job quality and Black workers. In this arena, he has published reports on employment issues in the Black community, initiated a Black union leadership school, and shaped projects designed to build solidarity between Black and Latino immigrant workers. Currently, a major area of his work involves providing technical assistance to efforts in developing Black worker centers around the country.

April Sims


April Sims was elected Secretary Treasurer of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO by its affiliated unions in December 2018 and she began her four-year term on Jan. 5, 2019. She is the first woman of color to be elected as a WSLC executive officer.

April has served as the WSLC’s Political and Strategic Campaign Director since November 2017, working to develop shared agendas with labor and community partners, to advance strategic organizing campaigns (raising wages, naturalization, revenue reform, etc.), and to recruit, train and elect political champions for working people. She first joined the WSLC in September 2015 as Field Mobilization Director, working with WSLC-affiliated unions and community partners to support and encourage the participation of individual members with many different political, legislative and community programs.

Prior to joining the WSLC staff, Sims served as the Legislative and Political Action Field Coordinator for the Washington Federation of State Employees, AFSCME Council 28 (WFSE), where she was responsible for member education, communication, and mobilization around legislative issues and political campaigns. She was a WFSE member, shop steward, elected union officer, and union staffer from 2002-15.

Kathryn Edin

Princeton University

Edin is one of the nation’s leading poverty researchers. A qualitative and mixed-method researcher, she has taken on key mysteries about the urban poor that have not been fully answered by quantitative work: How do single mothers possibly survive on welfare? Why don’t more go to work? Why do they end up as single mothers in the first place? Where are the fathers and why do they disengage from their children’s lives? How have the lives of the single mothers changed as a result of welfare reform? The hallmark of her research is her direct, in-depth observations of the lives of low-income women, men, and children.

Gary Evans

Cornell University

Professor Evans is an environmental and developmental psychologist interested in how the physical environment affects human health and well being among children. His specific areas of expertise include the environment of childhood poverty, children’s environments (housing, schools, playgrounds, toys), cumulative risk and child development, environmental stressors, and the development of children’s environmental attitudes and behaviors.

Olga Miranda


Olga is President of SEIU Local 87 in San Francisco. The SEIU was founded in 1921 in Chicago as the Building Services Employees Union (BSEU); its first members were janitors, elevator operators, and window washers.
Today SEIU is the fastest-growing union in North America, uniting workers in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. Over 25 percent of our members whom identify as immigrants – a constant tribute to the union’s roots. From the start, SEIU has embraced its heritage as a union of immigrants and has stood on the frontline of immigrant justice.

“People open their lives and homes to us, for me it becomes not only a privilege but a responsibility to make sure their stories are told. We have to be brutally honest and empathetic when telling their stories. When it comes to filming families, the right thing to do is be their advocate and make sure people don’t look away. “
Jillian Hurley

Stephanie Porta

Organize Florida

As a community organizer, Stephanie Porta has spent the last 15 years working to support Florida’s low income communities in their fight for equity and dignity. Her work has led to raising Florida’s minimum wage in 2004, passing police accountability reforms, winning foreclosure prevention programs, affordable utility campaigns, electing progressive officials and much more.

In 2010, Stephanie co-founded Organize Florida to work on the needs of Florida’s low and moderate income communities and now acts as Executive Director. The membership organization has grown quickly and has membership in 17 counties across mid-Florida. In 2014, Stephanie championed efforts to pass Earned Sick Time in Orange County, and in 2016 supported outreach efforts to more than two million voters across Florida. Stephanie has been recognized by the Orlando Sentinel, Orlando Weekly, Orlando Magazine & Orlando Women’s Magazine for leadership on government transparency and issues facing the working poor.

Beth Babcock


Elisabeth Babcock (Beth) is the President and CEO of Economic Mobility Pathways (EMPath), an international charitable organization dedicated to creating new pathways to economic independence for low-income families. EMPath uses its unique “action-tank” business model to design, build, and test new approaches for creating economic mobility and then shares them with other organizations and governments.

Mike Buchman

Solid Ground

Mike is the Communications Director for Solid Ground in Seattle, WA. Solid Ground works to end poverty and undo racism and other oppressions that are root causes of poverty. Solid Ground envisions a community beyond poverty and oppression where all people have equitable opportunity to thrive.

Stephanie Kelton

Stony Brook University

Stephanie is a leading authority on Modern Monetary Theory, a new approach to economics that is taking the world by storm. She is considered one of the most important voices influencing the policy debate today.

Her forthcoming book, The Deficit Myth: Modern Monetary Theory and the Birth of the People’s Economy (June 9, 2020), shows how to break free of the flawed thinking that has hamstrung policymakers around the world.


Lawrence Katz

Harvard University

Lawrence F. Katz is the Elisabeth Allison Professor of Economics at Harvard University and a Research Associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research.  His research focuses on issues in labor economics and the economics of social problems. He is the author (with Claudia Goldin) of The Race between Education and Technology (Harvard University Press, 2008), a history of U.S. economic inequality and the roles of technological change and the pace of educational advance in affecting the wage structure. 


Stacy Mitchell


Stacy Mitchell is co-director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and directs its Independent Business Initiative, which produces research and analysis, and partners with a broad range of allies to design and implement policies to reverse corporate concentration and strengthen local enterprise.

Mitchell has also written for The AtlanticBloombergWashington Monthly, and Wall Street Journal.  She’s the author of the book Big-Box Swindle. Her perspective and research are frequently cited in news media and she’s appeared on several national radio shows and podcasts, including NPR’s On The Media and Chris Hayes’ Why Is This Happening?


"Income inequality is the greatest problem facing America today. It effects our other two major inequality issues, racial inequality and gender inequality. Income inequality must be remedied or America will inevitably collapse into a Banana Republic without drastic legislative and societal action."
Dave Pederson
"How the war on poverty became the war against the poor."
Dave Pederson

Jacob Hacker

Yale University

Jacob S. Hacker is Stanley Resor Professor of Political Science and Director of the Institution for Social and Policy Studies at Yale University. A regular media commentator and policy adviser, he is the author or co-author of five books, numerous journal articles, and a wide range of popular writings on American politics and public policy. His most recent book, written with Paul Pierson, is American Amnesia: How the War on Government Led Us to Forget What Made America Prosper—a New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice and a best business book of 2016 according to the management magazine Strategy+Business.