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Submitted by: Denise Candea, a Charlotte County Dems writer

I had planned to stop raging about Trump and to start pondering the wide-open possibilities of an America that is finally realizing her promise of equal justice for all. But I have been about as successful with my pivot to “hopeful” as Trump has been with his pivot to “presidential”.

First, Trump keeps bringing the fight to me. I try to turn away, but he lies or distorts every time he opens his mouth and he makes every situation worse. We’re living in a dystopian cartoon.

Second, I am unsettled – off balance. Until the police killing of George Floyd, I was much less aware of the pervasiveness of systemic racism than I thought I was; than I should have been. So now I am learning and growing at a rate that leaves me both exhilarated and exhausted; alternately rageful and hopeful – often at the same time. From my conversations with friends and family (and the occasional bewildered stranger), I am not alone.  

So with your indulgence, I will eventually Reimagine America and maybe reimagine myself as well. But right now, I want to talk about our two different Americas. The confluence of the pandemic, the economic collapse and simmering racial tension have put our immense inequities on display. What we prioritize next will determine what America we become.

In my America we are inconvenienced, but not suffering. Retirees on fixed incomes are largely unaffected by the economic insecurity of the pandemic-driven recession. The feds sent us stimulus checks, which we can’t spend, because we don’t go anywhere. The CARES Act eliminated the requirement to take a Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) this year from our IRA accounts. Thus, those who do not need the money to live on, can avoid paying the taxes due on it. The larger the IRA, the more the tax break. This is perverse.

My America includes millions of fortunate employees who are able to work from home. Technology has made this possible. Some businesses have hardly lost a beat. Others have made a fortune. One of the provisions of the stimulus bill allows certain real estate developers to claim losses that predate the pandemic. This is obscene. 

My America has included to date, workers who receive unemployment benefits and a $600/week federal bonus. They have been able to pay their bills which supports the economy.  Unfortunately, the bonus ends July 31 and its continuation at that level is in doubt.

And then there is the other America, where the suffering is unconscionable and much of it was preventable. COVID-19 deaths and uncompensated unemployment are disproportionately high in poorer communities and among people of color. And as reported by Charlotte County Democratic writer Catherine Baxter, the moratorium on evictions and foreclosures of federally financed housing is expiring, leaving millions of Americans at risk of homelessness. Add to that heightened racial tensions, intentionally exacerbated by Trump and his cult.

The other America includes small business owners that did not receive enough federal funds to pay the bills through the shutdown and then the slowdown. Some were unable to access any money at all, because they lacked the banking connections that expedited application. This was particularly true of minority-owned businesses. Many are gone forever. It includes laid-off workers still waiting for their first unemployment check. Some have received no aid at all and can’t even get their tax refunds because the IRS is so backlogged. And marginalized folks not able to get a stimulus check because they are not in the IRS system. The people who need the help the most are not getting it. This is grossly unjust.

The other America includes those who are incarcerated, institutionalized or hospitalized. They are at daily, deadly risk.

The other America also includes nurses, doctors, first responders, cashiers, nursing home staff, caregivers.  All essential workers with contact with the public. They are at risk of getting sick and they are sick and tired of people who won’t wear a mask. And soon this will include teachers.

And the workers who have jobs, but no consistent childcare. Worried that schools won’t open and/or worried that they will.

The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), intended to keep workers on payrolls, was communicated and implemented so ineptly, that businesses laid off employees instead of retaining them. Those employees then qualified for unemployment, enhanced by the federal $600 week. Workers in fragile situations: part-time, low-wage, no paid leave, no health insurance, no job security, are now making more (some a lot more) to stay home than they ever made working.  

Democrats want to extend the $600 bonus until the end of the year, knowing full well that unemployment will remain high. Without this aid, many workers will not be able to make ends meet on state unemployment benefits alone, which in Florida maxes out at $275/week. The GOP says that this is a disincentive to return to work, so they want to reduce the bonus to 70% of pre-pandemic wages. I would like to see these stingy Republicans try to live on $5.07/hour, which is 70% of the federal minimum wage. They think they can starve the most vulnerable workers back to work. They ignore the fact that their complicity in the Trumpian response to the pandemic has ensured that there are not enough jobs to go back to. Once again, it is crystal clear which party prioritizes the people over the rich.

Vote BLUE all the way on November 3rd, less than 100 days away.  Sign up to be a poll worker. Joe Biden’s bold plans are our only hope for my reimagined America.

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