By Andrew Hammond, Ariel Jurow Kleiman, and Gabriel Scheffler. Full Text.
The COVID-19 pandemic has delivered an unprecedented shock to the United States and the world. It is unclear precisely how long this crisis, which is both epidemiological and economic, will last, and it is difficult to gauge the extent and direction of the changes in American life these crises will cause. Nonetheless, it is beyond dispute that the COVID-19 pandemic is putting significant strain on both the ability of Americans to meet basic needs and our government’s capacity to assist them. Federal, state, and local governments have responded in various ways to deploy existing safety net programs like Medicaid, SNAP (food stamps), tax credits, and unemployment insurance to meet the surge in need. At this stage of the crisis, it is worth a) identifying the ways in which the pandemic feeds on and exacerbates both racial and economic inequality in America, b) analyzing the government response in detail, c) considering which changes should outlast the current crisis, and d) addressing how government, in the future, should build social welfare programs that are better suited to meet the needs of all Americans in the coming years. This Essay tries to do these four things in a way that is cogent and useful to legal and lay audiences alike.