Kentucky hurt while waiting for federal pandemic aid

In Perry County, Kentucky, local governments are reducing garbage picking. Magoffin County has fired public security workers. Also, in Floyd County, where food pantry reports that demand has tripled in the past month, authorities are looking for ways to avoid reducing programs that feed families.

“For many of these kids, this is the only meal they get in a day,” said Robert Williams, a judge in Floyd County. “I can’t ask my child to sit on the computer all day without eating anything.”

In the event of an incident or death, Kentucky is less affected by the coronavirus than some other states. Like most of the country, it experienced a surge this fall, but one less serious than neighboring Tennessee. Kentucky’s economy is behaving in exactly the same way, especially in rural areas that are already struggling.

Matthew C. Wireman, a judge in Magoffin County, Appalachian County, said, “Before Covid, we were in desperate need of financial support,” with an unemployment rate of 16.7% in October. ..

A relief package passed by Congress this month and signed by President Trump on Sunday should help. Paying $ 600 to an individual who has been criticized by the president and many progressives for being too low can be very helpful if the average household’s annual income is less than $ 40,000. So would the $ 300 weekly supplement to the unemployment allowance. The bill also includes provisions aimed at helping rural areas, such as subsidies for broadband infrastructure and support for smallholders.

However, the aid was opposed by one of Kentucky’s Republican senators, Rand Paul, who voted against the package in the Senate because it was equivalent to giving out “free money.” And it will be smaller and slower than it would otherwise be due to the work of other state senators, Mitch McConnell. Mitch McConnell fought to limit the package as the leader of the majority.

In particular, McConnell worked to eliminate widespread aid to state and local governments — help many local government officials in his state say they are in desperate need.

But McConnell’s spokesman said lawmakers weren’t an obstacle, but helped lead the trillions of dollars in the federal response to the pandemic.

“The compromise isn’t perfect, but it will bring tremendous benefits to the struggle between Kentucky citizens and Americans across the country who are in need of help,” McConnell said in a statement Sunday evening.

Paul’s office did not respond to requests for comment.

The unemployment rate in some local counties is double digits. The pre-crisis rate of high hunger and poverty has skyrocketed. Authorities have to choose between tax increases and tax cuts, as Kentucky has lost more than 20,000 state and local government jobs since February and budgets have been crippled by lower tax revenues.

“It’s frustrating that our senators don’t support local governments,” said Democrat Wireman. “These are extraordinary times, and the federal government needs to take extraordinary steps at the national level to help people.”

Like many rural areas across the country, Magoffin County relies heavily on the public sector. State and local government jobs account for almost one-third of all jobs in the county, but one-eighth of all jobs nationwide. Elliott County, with its two counties to the north, is even more credible, with nearly two-thirds of all jobs being government jobs, including more than 200 in state prisons.

“In many rural areas, state and local governments are the main employers,” said Janet Hara, executive director of outreach at Northern Kentucky University’s business school.

State and local governments also provide “good jobs” where the factories and mines that once played that role are often closed — stable, relatively well-paid, and profitable. Reducing more work will delay recovery, according to Hara.

Kentucky’s economy has a pocket of power. In the state as a whole, the unemployment rate in November was 5.6%, higher than 6.7% nationwide. Due to its central state, it has become a logistics hub for UPS, DHL and Amazon that thrived during the pandemic boom of online shopping. Toyota and Ford have factories in Kentucky. They shut down early in the pandemic, but regained vibrancy to meet growing demand.

But like the whole country, pandemics are widening the gap between rich and poor regions.

Louisville, the state’s largest city and economic driver, suffers from the loss of tourism and entertainment, but industries that are less affected by pandemics, such as healthcare and professional services, help maintain the economy. This is not the case in many rural areas where there are only a handful of major employers.

“In urban areas, when people start spending money again, the fact of the matter is that there will be other companies that will replace the declining companies,” Hara said. In rural areas, “the loss of these jobs makes it very difficult to replace them.”

Darryl Royce is trying to hold up. He is a co-owner of the comfort food restaurant Heritage Kitchen on the main street of Whitesburg, a small city near the Virginia border.

Royse’s business overcame the first wave of the pandemic with a loan from the Federal Paycheck Protection Program and a small grant from a local group. But that help is gone and the pandemic is hurting his business again.

Last month, Governor Andy Beshear closed indoor dining in the state in response to a surge in virus incidents. He canceled the order this month, but Mr. Royce’s business hasn’t recovered. Since resuming, he hasn’t filled more than two tables at a time. Without federal support, he said it could be difficult to survive the winter.

“There is some kind of disconnect between the people who go to Washington and the very small communities they represent, especially those in rural areas,” Royce said. “We really need help.”

Communities like Whitesburg have been struggling long before the pandemic. The coal mines that underpinned the economy of eastern Kentucky have been declining for decades, and despite federal and regional revitalization efforts, the region has chronic health, poor education, and extensive. I am suffering from poverty.

The economic expansion that followed the Great Depression failed to lift many poor rural communities, and the pandemic undoed much of the progress made.

“What Covid did was to boost them even further,” said Orgbenga Aziroa, an economist at the Center for American Progress who studied the impact of pandemics on the American countryside. He said many factors that contributed to the region’s pre-pandemic struggle—insufficient digital infrastructure, lack of access to healthcare — made the region particularly vulnerable.

In addition, high poverty rates mean that many families have fallen into a pandemic with few resources to survive the storm. And many of them have already suffered permanent financial damage during the months delay for aid, said Jason Bailey, secretary-general of the liberal group Kentucky Economic Policy Center. It was.

“It’s no different than anywhere else, except that many people were working on this without savings or buffers anyway,” he said.

The pandemic halved the income of Alicia Hardwick, a hair stylist near Pikeville, an hour north of Whitesburg. She qualifies for a partial unemployment allowance of about $ 90 every two weeks, but payments stopped in early October and no one in the state unemployment office can be contacted to resolve the issue. was.

Hardwick tried to make a mask to make money on his side, but it wasn’t much. Her husband was more successful and created some marketing videos on a freelance basis with a little extra cash. But that’s not enough. Another invoice is filed and the cycle continues, just as the couple felt involved.

“Then we had to level off again, go to work and make more money to give it,” Hardwick said. “It’s the little people who are suffering now, and the rich are getting richer and richer.”

She said she was skeptical of the federal government even before the pandemic. This year’s events solidified that sentiment, she said, proving to her that the people of Washington couldn’t or didn’t want to help the people they represent.

“I used to not trust the government so much because I knew it was keeping things away from us, but now it looks like it’s evil,” Hardwick said. It was. “It was right that I didn’t trust them completely-I really went home-never, never, never.”

Patricia Cohen contributed to the report.

Kentucky hurt while waiting for federal pandemic aid

Source link Kentucky hurt while waiting for federal pandemic aid

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