Next, the Flood of Complaints
Terry H. Schwadron
May 1, 2020
We’re hearing a lot more this week about government checks never getting to individuals and families, bailout loans meant for small business going to big companies, and government money for industries going out with no real oversight at all.
Given the speed with which the three different aid bills went out and the partisan bickering over selected portions, perhaps we’re just reaping what we could have expected all along.
But now our politicians are hearing tons of complaints about breakdowns in the various systems or unhappiness from those left at the starting gate.
It’s the next, predictable step in an under-planned response to pandemic that has left states competing for medical equipment, has left employers confused about how to get aid money, and has left Donald Trump sputtering about why citizens are not flocking to his side to thank them. We have an ongoing debate about what remains federal vs. state responsibilities, we have federal government prosecutors prepared to argue against the strictness of state government mandates, and we have vast confusion on the part of individual small business owners and customers about how to balance safety and economic issues.
And it is all happening without any understandable level of oversight over the very programs that were supposed to bring calm to the roiled waters.
Even Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says he is upset that aid money is ending up with larger companies than he and Trump had in mind — a particularly head-scratching observation from the guy running the show.
So, fraud is on the steep increase as hustlers look for ways to waylay checks mailed to individuals, governors trying to re-open closed areas are meeting with resistance from safety-minded employers, and employers of meat-packing plants and other business with low-paid workers and without self-restraining common sense are moving ahead with little regard for the medical effect on their workers and customers.
The rush to take credit for spending $2.5 trillion is outpacing the mechanisms to ensure it goes to intended destinations.
The shame of it all is that coronavirus is hardly defeated, although the politicians, starting with Donald Trump, can’t even be straight about acknowledging that fact. As a result, we’re in a soup of constant half-truths that then prompt more half-truths in opposition.
On its face, the split is not necessarily partisan, more a split between rural and urban, those who accept Science pitted against those driven by something else. But as each week passes, it also is beginning to shape up more an more as a partisan political party division with Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell bashing Democratic governors and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democrats lining up behind Science.
So, medical advice is mixed even as medical testing and medical results are hard to get straight. And the economic aid to fix all the effects is just as screwed up.
“Our constituents have a lot of questions about where the hell this $3 trillion is going and why it isn’t coming into their pockets,” Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon, D-PA, said during a House committee meeting. “Fraudulent actors go to where the money is, and this is where the money is right now,” said Rep. Rob Woodall, R-GA. “So, I absolutely think that we have to redouble our effort to make sure that these dollars aren’t wasted.”
Complaining citizens cite loopholes and administrative failures for leaving too many empty-handed, with rent, food and medical bills starting to go unpaid.
Politico says lawmakers are begging for fixes to a litany of legislative shortcomings, and have brought up issues with the small business program on a call with the head of Small Business Administration, Jovita Carranza.
Expect More Complaints
Though there have been two bills to provide hundreds of billions of dollars to small businesses to keep workers employed, banks warn the money could run out in a matter of days with hundreds of thousands of applications still pending.
And while Congress has given hospitals and health care providers $175 billion, the actual delivery of aid has been confusing and uneven, all parties acknowledge. As Politico reports, big hospital chains that see the most elderly patients have so far received the most federal funds. “We are all utterly perplexed trying to figure out what the hell this formula is and how it’s going to work,” one health care consultant told the news outlet. “They could be sending out checks today, and we truly don’t know how they’re doing it.”
Nor is aid to cover uninsured patients any clearer under the government-pay policy that the White House said was an efficient and targeted alternative to offering a special Obamacare sign-up.
Money for universities has been granted, largely refunded, and now awaits some new formula from the Department of Education. Secretary Betsy DeVos managed to anger many universities by imposing a condition that would block aid to DACA recipients and international students.
The IRS has acknowledged sending individual stimulus checks to accounts of Americans who have died, even as others say they never got a check.
The “new normal” resembles the old normal only in how messy these programs are for actual people.