Thursday, April 30, 2020
Pamela Foohey (Indiana), Dalié Jiménez (UC-Irvine) & Christopher Odinet (Oklahoma), CARES Act Gimmicks: How Not To Give People Money During a Pandemic And What To Do Instead, 2020 U. Ill. L. Rev. Online 81:
The coronavirus pandemic upturned Americans’ lives. The profound financial effects caused by even a few weeks of the coronavirus’ upheaval spurred Congress to pass the CARES Act, which purported to provide economic relief to individuals and businesses. For individuals, the CARES Act includes five provisions that were effectively designed to provide people money. Chief among those provisions are a direct payment in the form of a tax rebate and enhanced employment benefits.
Ultimately, this financial support will prove to be shockingly minimal. The direct payments represent a fraction of the average American households’ monthly budget. The unemployment benefits, while providing people with more money over several months, require that people be laid off and similarly are unlikely to reach people quickly enough to be effective. These corner pieces of the CARES Act are best understood as gimmicks. Through them, the federal government told people that it would take care of them in ways that were immediately salient to them as the coronavirus crisis began.
It also became quickly apparent to at least some lawmakers that Congress would need to pass at least one additional stimulus package. Indeed, Congress may have several more opportunities to craft legislation that actually will help American families survive the pandemic. This legislation must provide people with true funding to stay current with their minimum necessary expenses as these expenses are incurred. In this Essay, we discuss the gimmicks of the CARES Act’s individual provisions and what Congress should do for people in future bills to address this pandemic.