The rosy picture painted by the Vice President doesn’t reflect the reality of struggles for the many still unemployed and facing foreclosure.
Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) dueled in a vice presidential debate Wednesday night as millions of Americans and thousands in Wisconsin continue to struggle in a coronavirus pandemic that has taken an extended toll on the economy well beyond what Pence and President Donald Trump predicted in the spring.
Wisconsinites still reeling from the pandemic likely got little comfort from Pence, who falsely claimed the economy is in good shape and made no promise of further federal aid after months of inaction from the Republican-controlled Senate and Republican legislators in Wisconsin. Almost 940,000 people have applied for unemployment in Wisconsin since the pandemic began, according to the Department of Workforce Development, and unemployment remained high at 6.1% in August, according to DWD data. The jobless rate in Wisconsin peaked at 13.6% in April.
The debate was exponentially more coherent and substantive than the spectacle last Tuesday in which Trump interrupted and shouted over Democratic nominee Joe Biden and moderator Chris Wallace more than 140 times, but Pence still struggled to offer much of a defense against Harris’ attacks on the administration’s handling of the pandemic.
“This administration has forfeited their right to re-election,” Harris said in fiery opening remarks in which she listed national unemployment, infection, and death statistics.
Wisconsin’s dismal unemployment numbers are far better than the national outlook. The economic crisis left about 20 million Americans jobless at its peak as the unemployment rate soared to 14.7%, and 12.6 million people remain unemployed with the national unemployment rate now at a still-staggering 7.9%. Millions more are still struggling to get by.
Struggling residents in Wisconsin have been left waiting for federal aid because Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) have not convened the Legislature to pass a single bill in six months, even as the virus rages on.
Pence argued the CARES Act, signed into law in late March, was a success. The package’s premier programs, such as the bungled Paycheck Protection Program and $600 weekly unemployment insurance payment boost, have long run out of money. He falsely claimed the administration led the country to a so-called “v-shaped recovery.”
“We’ve literally spared no expense,” Pence said.
However, the economy remains in shambles. The country is in a recession and even the artificially inflated stock market tumbled this week after Trump abruptly cut off talks with Democrats for a new federal coronavirus relief bill, six months after the CARES Act passed through Congress.
House Democrats passed their own relief package in May, but Senate Republicans refused to even begin negotiations for months and ultimately failed in September to pass a bill.
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The $600 weekly unemployment insurance boost from the CARES Act was helping some 200,000 Wisconsin families stave off evictions when it expired. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention did federally ban evictions through the end of the year, but people are still being thrown out on the streets due to the requirement that tenants prove they are exempt from eviction under the CDC order.
While Trump said he and Republicans will not work on another relief bill until after the election, Biden has put forth a plan to help with recovery efforts. Biden proposed giving more aid to local governments and schools, something Republicans did not include in their second package proposal. The former vice president’s proposal also includes provisions to extend the unemployment insurance boost and offer more money for small businesses.