Week in Review: Economic Stimulus, Record Unemployment, and Hot Spots

By Jack Johnson, Chief Advocacy Officer, Destinations International

As I think back on the week of March 23, three phrases come to mind – economic bailout, unemployment and hot spots.

ECONOMIC BAILOUT

This week the U.S. Congress approved a $2.2 trillion coronavirus rescue bill as the pandemic continues taking a devastating toll on the U.S. economy and health care system. The measure, known as the CARE Act, will ship payments of up to $1,200 to millions of Americans, bolster unemployment benefits, offer loans, grants and tax breaks to businesses large and small and flush billions more to states, local governments and the nation's all but overwhelmed health care system. The President is expected to sign the bill.

In Canada, Parliament passed a massive COVID-19 rescue package of their own. The aid package includes C$52 billion in direct financial support for individuals and businesses and C$55 billion in tax deferrals. Individual measures include a boost to the Canada Child Benefit, money for those who are out of work and a six-month freeze on student loan repayments.

As for what I expect next week, more economic bailout. The Canadian government is cranking out another huge influx of money to protect the Canadian economy during the global pandemic. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that Canada will increase wage subsidies for small businesses from 10 percent to 75 percent, banks will be allowed to give up to $40,000 in government-backed loans to businesses, with no interest for a year and the chance that $10,000 will be forgiven, sales tax and import duties for businesses will be delayed until June, and lending agencies will get another $12.5 billion that businesses can borrow. I would expect more talk next week.

In Washington, D.C, with the CARE Act not yet signed, talk has already begun on a fourth economic bailout bill to address industries not yet covered in the first three bills.

UNEMPLOYMENT FILINGS

The second phrase is unemployment filings. In any given week, Canada gets about 45,000 claims for jobless benefits, but the numbers for March 16-22 came in at more than 20 times that, with 927,000 Canadians tossed out of work in a single week. The Parliamentary Budget Officer said that Canadian unemployment could reach 15% by the third quarter.

In the United States, the Department of Labor reported on Thursday that 3.28 million people filed for unemployment insurance last week, confirming that the economy is rapidly transitioning from strong activity to an unwelcome hibernation because of the coronavirus. This is more than four times higher than ever recorded and a sharp rise from 282,000 the previous week.

As for next week, well frankly, we could see these records topped.

HOT SPOTS

Earlier this week, the World Health Organization said the U.S. has the potential to become the new pandemic epicenter. That is scary. We know about Washington state and California as well as New York City and the surrounding areas in New York state and New Jersey. This week we are seeing new coronavirus hot spots emerging in the Chicago, Detroit and New Orleans areas.

This last bit of information makes me pause. I have heard a lot of discussion of moving to planning for recovery – and I don’t want to suggest we shouldn’t. It is important to think of the future. But something a financial expert told me this week really resonated – we shouldn’t be thinking about the next 3 to 6 months, we need to be thinking about the next 3 to 6 weeks. We now know the crisis we are responding to, but we need to appreciate that it still will get worse before it gets better and we need to plan for that.

About the Author

Jack Johnson
Chief Advocacy Officer
Destinations International
As Chief Advocacy Officer, Jack manages the overall public policy operations at Destinations International including member advocacy education and training, development of destination tools and best practices, coalition work with peer organizations, industry research and related public affairs activities. Currently, his work around positioning destination organizations as a shared value in each of their communities and speaking with a new lexicon based on the emotion driven by those values has made him one of the leading voices of the travel industry.