For most Americans, COVID-19 has defined 2020. The coronavirus has completely changed how most families operate on a day-to-day level, changing family dynamics and forcing parents to dramatically change their lives with little to no warning.
Now, COVID-19-related protections for citizens, like increased unemployment benefits and eviction moratoriums, are lifting across the country. Today, we're exploring how COVID-19 has affected US families, and what the end of these protections could mean for Americans.
The End of COVID-19 Protections
The COVID-19 pandemic has absolutely devastated the US economy. Over 40 million Americans have filed for unemployment benefits since the outset of the pandemic. In just one financial quarter, the US economy (measured by gross domestic product [GDP]) shrunk by 32.9%—the biggest downturn in almost a century.
Needless to say, for the many Americans, things are looking rough financially. Unfortunately, it's hard to predict when the economy will start to recover—some economists estimate that up to 42% of the jobs lost to COVID-19 won't come back in the near future. The pandemic has strangled small and medium-sized businesses across the country—particularly those dependent on in-store customers, like restaurants—and many won't reopen after the pandemic dies down.
Then, there's the eviction moratorium. Throughout the pandemic so far, most states have implemented eviction moratoriums that prevent landlords from evicting tenants for "non-essential" reasons. In most cases, that means landlords can only evict tenants who engage in criminal activity, intentionally damage their property, or endanger other tenants with their activities.
But in most states, eviction moratoriums are coming to an end in August and September—and it could leave tens of millions of Americans facing eviction. Yes, you read that right—tens of millions.
In an effort to stimulate the economy in the early days of the pandemic, the US government provided an extra $600 a week to Americans on unemployment benefits. However, at the end of July, those bonuses are expiring—and legislators are dragging their feet to extend them.
It's a perfect storm for millions of American families. As eviction moratoriums lift, the unemployment bonuses that could keep Americans in their homes are also expiring. With the economy—and therefore, the job market—at its worst state in almost a century, many Americans will be unable to find the employment they need to stay afloat.
Many families will need to seek out alternative housing arrangements (like staying with friends or family) until either a second stimulus bill is passed or the economy starts to recover.
For tens of millions of American families, the future is incredibly uncertain—and unfortunately, there's no easy way to predict when things will start to look up.
The 2020/2021 School Year Is an Obstacle to Families Across the US
As if families didn't have enough to worry about, concerns about plans to reopen schools for the 2020/2021 school year are also mounting.
To get an in-depth overview of how Texas schools are planning to handle reopening in the fall and the arguments for and against reopening schools, read this blog we wrote about just that this month. For a quick rundown, here's what you need to know: Texas schools are currently planning to reopen for in-person instruction around the middle of September.
It's a decision that has sparked controversy across the nation. Proponents for reopening argue that children are unlikely to suffer from many of the virus' negative effects and are a low-risk demographic, so reopening should be safe. They also argue that families can no longer afford to look after children while trying to work or find employment.
Alternatively, critics argue that even one death as the result of reopening schools is a needless loss of life, and that high-risk demographics like older teachers or children with medical conditions will pay the price.
Either way, many parents feel they're caught between a rock and a hard place. Do they send their kid to school and risk them contracting COVID-19 to make working or finding employment easier? How will they handle the possibility that their child could transfer COVID to them or other family members and friends? The simple prospect of reopening schools poses a multitude of questions—many of which don't have a "right" answer.
Will There Be a Second Stimulus Check?
Honestly, we don't know.
Senator Mitch McConnell did set a deadline for August 7th to pass a new stimulus bill, but legislators are in disagreement over what the bill should contain.
Republican legislators want to either remove unemployment bonuses entirely or reduce the current $600 a week bonus by up to 43%, arguing that increased unemployment benefits disincentivize workers from finding employment. Democratic legislators disagree, arguing that the job market simply isn't healthy enough to justify cutting off the bonuses and that doing so could jeopardize the financial livelihood of millions of Americans.
If another bill does pass, there's no telling what it will look like. It will probably contain similar benefits as the first stimulus bill—a $1,200 payment for Americans with bonuses for families with children—but how the government will handle unemployment benefits remains to be seen.
At this stage, only one thing is certain: American families will face multiple challenges in the coming months, many of them life-changing. Our thoughts are with our clients and families across the US as they confront these hurdles.
As part of all of this, our attorneys are counseling with clients regarding IMPORTANT family law issues like the need to decrease child support obligations because of loss of work or loss of unemployment benefits, how to handle possession issues related to “at home” schooling and the necessity of moving because of loss of housing, and many other new and challenging issues related to COVID-19.
As we’ve discussed in previous posts, some of these issues—like adjusting a visitation schedule—can be resolved through informal modifications while others—like changing child support payments—will require formal modification to an existing court order. Our attorneys are happy to help you as things change for your family during these trying times.
If you have legal questions during, our family lawyers at Coker, Robb & Cannon, Family Lawyers, are here for you.
To schedule a consultation with our team, contact us online or via phone at (940) 293-2313.