I’ve talked in recent blogs about my efforts to assist our citizens who have felt the lash of the coronavirus – businesses, employees, homeowners, renters, and more. Two groups in particular are also in need of a boost now: our students and our veterans.
College students are generally young, eager for experience, and are preparing to start their career. However, they face obstacles — temporarily, I hope — that we never encountered because of the coronavirus pandemic. College alone can be a boulder. But the pandemic has tipped the boulder downhill. Students are struggling with loans and graduating without the joyful ceremony they earned. Most are facing gloomy employment prospects. And while students confront this dismal job market, they need some help, because the payments and interest on their college loans are not disappearing. The clock keeps ticking on those financial demands.
Recently, I sponsored a food distribution event in partnership with my legislative colleagues, Assemblyman Herb Conaway and Assemblywoman Carol Murphy. Even though we practiced social distancing, it provided me with a front-row view of one of the difficult and unintended consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has been food insecurity resulting from the closures of schools and staggering unemployment rates.
Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you know that the intrusion of the Coronavirus and the Black Lives Matter movement have been among the most prominent news events this year.
While the coronavirus’ impact is evident to everyone, the Black Lives Matter cause and the basis for its support might be less clear.
While many businesses and institutions have suffered during this COVID pandemic, two stand out that have been especially hard-hit and are struggling to recover. One is food banks, which by their very nature and stated mission are critical institutions that have seen that mission grow in importance during these times. They spend their resources trying to do their part to eradicate food insecurity by ensuring that no one goes to bed hungry. Is there anyone who hasn't seen on television the long lines of people standing or in cars, waiting for help? It shouldn't go unnoticed that some of those recipients, when interviewed, admit they never before stood in a food line.
Your home is your castle. It is a much-repeated and strongly believed premise no matter the differences in what that “home” looks like or represents. The problem that we face, accentuated by the coronavirus’s punishing impact, is that many homeowners and renters face a grim challenge. Suddenly, and without warning, many New Jerseyans face the prospect of losing their homes because of failure to meet mortgage payments or outright eviction if they are renters.
While having breakfast recently, I overheard one person saying to his companion, "Well, that's fine and good, but what is it that you do?" I don't recall the answer, but it prompted me to a new degree of self-reflection during our coronavirus pandemic.
One of the issues that have caused searing economic pain is the loss of income, causing financial disruption to families, especially to those in the lower or middle class. You may be asking what have I done, and what am I doing to help improve their economic condition during this present crisis?
So much emotion has been running through my heart and mind over these last several days as we watch our nation react passionately to the murder of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and so many others whose names do not make the headlines. We have been forced to reckon with the manifestation of America’s original sin of slavery. Some may be uncomfortable with that correlation. However, the root of this discrimination lies within a society that allowed the enslaving of its fellow human beings solely based on the color of their skin. This uncomfortable truth must be acknowledged so that we can recognize that while the physical chains that bound black and brown people no longer exist, there are still systemic and psychological chains that hold a segment of our society down.
If the coronavirus has been a bludgeon that has awakened our sensitivities to the challenges of unemployment benefits fulfillment and other economic issues, the other truncheon that threatens is the change we need in the social contract that exists within the American workforce.
Gallup recently issued a startling statistic: One-third of working Americans work in the gig economy, a workforce of “nontraditional, independent, short-term working relationships.”
Memorial Day is a day of remembrance when a grateful nation offers thanks. We began observing Memorial Day in 1868 (three years after the end of the Civil War) when our country honored military personnel who sacrificed their lives in the service of their country. We celebrate this holiday (previously called Decoration Day) each year on the last Monday of May.
The coronavirus has forced many changes that we would never have previously imagined. Some are lighthearted with Zoom happy hours, and others are sad, grim affairs, such as not being able to hug a loved one in the hospital who might be fighting for their life.
The coronavirus has sparked a tsunami of change that we are all undergoing. One of its most telling effects is its impact on the issue of unemployment.