Story at a glance
- The coronavirus pandemic has taken an enormous toll on the economy, putting many Americans out of work.
- Several coronavirus relief programs will expire at the end of this year unless new legislation is passed to extend them.
- A group of unemployed workers are planning to protest at the National Tree Lighting Ceremony this year.
The National Tree Lighting Ceremony will be streamed virtually this year due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. And if that wasn't enough of a reminder that this Christmas will be unlike any other, the Grinch is in town.
A few Grinches, actually. Unemployed workers are planning to dress as Grinches, identified as Sens. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), David Perdue (R-Ga.), Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) and other key leaders, and steal "gifts" from under the tree (metaphorically speaking). Across the street from the Eclipse will be several boxes wrapped as holiday gifts, each labeled with a demand for the next stimulus package, from support for small businesses to relief for immigrants.
BREAKING NEWS ON THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC
The protest is organized by Unemployed Action, a group of about 16,000 unemployed workers that first banded together on Facebook in June, three months after the CARES Act was passed. The group is asking for a COVID-19 stimulus package including extensions for unemployment insurance programs and the moratorium on evictions and student loan payments that expire at the end of the year.
Angela Moore, an actor and comedian, has been a leader in the group since July, but she won't be at the protest - she has COVID-19. Most of her business disappeared when the pandemic broke out and she received unemployment benefits until she got a temp job in September.
“I’m really in a bind right now because I can’t work,” said Moore, who has no other sources of income to fall back on as a one-person household.
“I am not a lazy person. I was so thankful to get that six hundred dollars a week because with my unemployment I was only getting one hundred dollars a week. And when I did have opportunities to work I didn’t turn it down because I was getting money. I still worked,” she said.
Moore has been working multiple jobs to support herself and wonders whether she contracted the virus through one of those jobs.
“Not getting this money is almost helping to perpetuate more coronavirus cases,” she added.
A bill hasn't reached the White House yet, however, and is stalled on Capitol Hill as lawmakers prepare to go home for the holidays with plans to return next year. Without a bill, several key parts of coronavirus relief efforts will expire, including the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program, a national moratorium on evictions, forbearance on federal student loans, penalty free early withdrawals from certain retirement accounts and credits for employers to cover paid sick leave and keep workers on the payroll. Just as Cinderella’s riches turned to rags at midnight, roughly 288,700 Americans and their families dependent on these programs will be out of luck.
Joined by other social justice organizations, including SPACEs in Action and ShutDownDC, the group plans to hold a "creative protest" with members sharing stories, poems, skits and other art to convey their message. The Too Talented Band and Singers, a funk, jazz and Go-Go group, are also scheduled to perform holiday carols at Pershing Park, on Pennsylvania Avenue.
In the absence of federal assistance, the community is leaning on each other to get by.
“We’re in solidarity, there is a network that we have to support each other,” Moore said. “I just hope that we can help America, because America is really struggling right now.”
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT CORONAVIRUS RIGHT NOW