Like most things in 2020, La­bor Day does not feel the same

The Dundalk Eagle - - NEWS - By MIKE URSERY murs­ery@ches­

La­bor Day Week­end is quickly ap­proach­ing, the un­of­fi­cial end of the sum­mer sea­son and a re­minder that cooler days are ap­proach­ing.

Where has this year gone? 2020 has felt like an eter­nity. It started out like a nor­mal year, and then – the coro­n­avirus came to the US. Things slowed to a crawl in March, and they haven’t picked up much since then.

Sure, we are al­lowed to re­turn to some of our happy dis­trac­tions – like sports, movies, din­ing out, and so on. But things haven’t got­ten back to nor­mal. Who knows how long it will be be­fore that hap­pens, if it even does hap­pen. Wear­ing masks and avoid­ing peo­ple could be­come the new norm.

COVID-19 has made this La­bor Day very dif­fer­ent, and not just be­cause a por­tion of the na­tion’s pop­u­la­tion will spend it watch­ing ath­letes play in­side a bub­ble. Many peo­ple will not spend this La­bor Day at bar­be­cues or on the wa­ter, and not just be­cause there’s still a virus out there. A lot of peo­ple will spend this week­end out of work, many of which have been out of work for months.

This Mon­day is a fed­eral hol­i­day that hon­ors the con­tri­bu­tions to this coun­try from Amer­i­can work­ers. Look all over this coun­try and you’ll see im­pres­sive cre­ations erected from steel and con­crete. They were built by Amer­i­cans. Hard peo­ple build­ing hard things.

The un­em­ploy­ment rate sat at 10.2 per­cent at the end of July. That is a sig­nif­i­cant im­prove­ment from when the US un­em­ploy­ment rate was at its peak in April (14.7 per­cent), but it’s tough to look at any­thing as a vic­tory when so many peo­ple are still out of work, des­per­ate and afraid. We are mov­ing into the sixth month of this pan­demic, and peo­ple still don’t know what to ex­pect when it comes to their fi­nan­cial fu­tures.

As bleak as things have seemed in 2020, things on the find­ing-a-so­lu­tion front haven’t not seemed much bet­ter. Our elected lead­ers have done more to use this pan­demic for po­lit­i­cal gain, which, let me be the first to tell you, is ab­so­lutely shock­ing. If we could have more ac­tion and less lip ser­vice, that just might put some ten­sions at ease. I could also just be think­ing ra­tio­nally right now, which is bor­der­line trea­sonous dur­ing these tribal times.

As of Sept. 1 there were 108,863 con­firmed cases in Mary­land and 3,617 deaths. since the first recorded case of the coro­n­avirus in the state. Nearly 600 of those deaths were con­firmed in Bal­ti­more County. One lo­cal zip code, 21224, has one of the high­est pos­i­tive case counts (1,928 cases, ranked third) in the state. But the pos­i­tiv­ity rate has con­sis­tently de­clined over the past sev­eral weeks, if you want to take that as a sil­ver lin­ing. In my hon­est opinion, Mary­land has nav­i­gated this pan­demic fairly well to this point. We are a lot bet­ter off case pos­i­tiv­ity-wise than a lot of other states.

But op­ti­mistic talk about our lit­tle area’s fu­ture doesn’t do any­thing now for the peo­ple who are out of work now. Peo­ple have seen their jobs fur­loughed. Em­ploy­ers have had to make tough de­ci­sions due to see­ing some re­stric­tions placed on their op­er­a­tions. Some peo­ple might still be for­tu­nate to have a job but keep­ing it meant tak­ing a pay­cut. Maybe that pay­cut has lasted for months. Maybe they have had to seek ad­di­tional op­por­tu­ni­ties to make ends meet, like join­ing the gig econ­omy or tak­ing on a sec­ond job.

Here are a few la­bor sta­tis­tics thus far in 2020:

Mary­land’s un­em­ploy­ment rate in­creased sig­nif­i­cantly in just one month, from 3.3 per­cent in March to 10.1 per­cent in April

The em­ploy­ment sit­u­a­tion has some­what im­proved, as the un­em­ploy­ment rate sat at 7.6 per­cent at the end of July.

Bal­ti­more County’s peak un­em­ploy­ment rate was 10.5 per­cent, at the end of April

The last re­ported un­em­ploy­ment rate for Bal­ti­more

County from the Bureau of La­bor Sta­tis­tics is from June, which was

All ad­ja­cent Mary­land ju­ris­dic­tions, with the ex­cep­tion be­ing Bal­ti­more City, have a lower un­em­ploy­ment rate than Bal­ti­more County

Mary­land spent around $600 mil­lion in un­em­ploy­ment ben­e­fits from May to July, ac­cord­ing to the Wash­ing­ton Post

Congress is at a dead­lock as the two houses can’t come to an agree­ment on a bill. Pres­i­dent Don­ald J. Trump re­cently signed an ex­ec­u­tive or­der to ex­tend un­em­ploy­ment stim­u­lus pay­ments at $400 per week. Ear­lier this year, Congress passed, and Trump signed, a bill that guar­an­teed an ex­tra $600 per week in un­em­ploy­ment ben­e­fit pay­ments. The plan is for each state to pay 25 per­cent of that ($100) and FEMA fund the rest.

Gov. Larry Ho­gan put in a re­quest to FEMA for ad­di­tional un­em­ploy­ment pay­ments, to­tal­ing $300 per week. The le­gal­ity of Trump’s ex­ec­u­tive or­der will most likely be chal­lenged. But for now, sev­eral states have put in for the FEMA grant.

No one can tell us when this pan­demic will end.

The eco­nomic im­pact will last af­ter it ends. As we get ready to move a year deeper into this decade, too many peo­ple are tr ying to fig­ure out how to put food on the ta­ble. Too many oth­ers aren’t sure if they will even have a ta­ble to place that food. Mean­while, those that we look to as the source to guide us through these per­ilous times are only us­ing that strife as po­lit­i­cal lever­age. An elec­tion must be com­ing up soon.

This La­bor Day might not hold the same mean­ing for some peo­ple this year. This has been a com­mon trend in 2020. Some of the tra­di­tions we look for­ward to the most have not shown up this year, and our fa­vorite hol­i­days just haven’t been the same. The Fourth of July felt like just an­other day. When win­ter ended and go­ing out­side was bear­able again, we couldn’t go any­where. When we fi­nally could go places again, a lot of peo­ple pre­ferred to stay home.

Some of our happy dis­trac­tions have re­turned, but they don’t hide the eco­nomic hard­ship we are fac­ing when we can fi­nally get out from un­der­neath the wrath of this virus.

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