How many ways can Arizona flub its COVID19 response simultaneously?
Not only did the Washington Post report that “Arizona has lost control of the pandemic,” Governor Doug Ducey also has been slow and intentionally minimalist in his distribution of relief to Arizonans who are suffering financial hardship.
His government has distributed only a tiny fraction of the funds available for unemployment, pandemic unemployment, and eviction relief. Only 6% of the 16,000 people who have applied for eviction relief have actually received it. Thousands of Arizonans could be evicted in July because Ducey is being tight-fisted and slow with the money, and deadlines are fast approaching. The Arizona Republic estimates that at the rate Ducey is currently distributing rental relief, it will take him a year to release paltry $5 million set aside to help renters.
Ducey temporarily delayed eviction enforcement through July 22. Congress banned evictions on property with federally backed mortgages until July 25 and funded pandemic unemployment through that date. These cutoff dates are less than a month away, and Arizona is seeing record number of cases of COVID19 every day — because Arizona and so many other red states opened up economies too quickly. Ducey is also being slow giving earmarked money to local governments and tribes. What is the point of forcing suffering on the people of Arizona?
Legislative Democrats sent the governor a letter this week asking him to extend the moratorium on evictions through the end of 2020. The current schedule will allow people to be evicted in mid July. It is immoral and inhumane to evict people in the middle of a pandemic, in 100+ degree weather, in the WORST outbreak state in the country. Arizona’s pandemic numbers are now not only worse than any other US state, but they are worse than Brazil and every European country. Even Iran is more progressive than Arizona; Iran has now mandated face masks. What did Ducey say at his last two press conferences? “The next few weeks will be rough. Stay safe out there… oh, yeah, wear a mask if you want to.”
Ducey and Vice President Mike Pence had planned to hold big political events in Tucson and Yuma on today, June 30. (You just can’t make this stuff up.) The Tucson “Faith in America” tour event and a similar Pence event in Florida were both cancelled on the weekend when new daily COVID19 cases exploded in both states. (Arizona hit almost 4000 new cases on Sunday, June 28, and we are close to 5000 new cases today, June 30.)
At his June 29 press conference, I’m glad Ducey announced closing bars, gyms, theaters, water parks, and tubing; capping pools at 10 people and events at 50; and extending these restrictions through July 27. Besides stepping up the pace of relief to Arizonans, ramping up the public health response to the pandemic, requiring face masks statewide, AND shutting down the big events, what do we do going forward?
The New York Times and Forbes both reported that as many as 40% of the jobs that existed before the pandemic will not exist in a year. That is a scary statistic. Is it because so many businesses will go under in the coming months? Is it because they will downsize or innovate or sell real estate (due to rise in remote employment)? Or will these jobs and businesses not be needed in the future because our shopping and living patterns have changed permanently? The answer to this question is most likely “all of the above”.
Old industries, systems and paradigms will die with the COVID19 pandemic, and rightfully so, since many of them were based in racism, sexism, discrimination, and greed. I’m hoping the gig economy is one of the fatalities. New jobs, new professions, new products, new industries, new systems and new paradigms will be born.
If we want a more equitable and more sustainable world, we have to strategize and build it ourselves. We can’t just sit back and long for the past. The past is gone. It will take an enormous amount of political courage to make necessary systemic changes and do the right thing for the people. At the very least, the people of the United States should come out of this crisis with guaranteed affordable health care, universal basic income (to protect people from homelessness), and a more equitable and sustainable economy.
It doesn’t do anybody any good to force people to live in sickness and poverty, which is what our country and our state has done for decades. It’s not good for the people are evicted and lose their children to foster care … obviously … but it’s also not good for our community, our city, our state, or our country.
We are all in this together. It’s time to design and build our new world together.