Friday, January 22, 2021: 5:00 PM-6:00 PM
Cluster: Inequality, Poverty, and Social Welfare Policy
Trina Shanks, PhD, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor,
Michael Sherraden, PhD, Washington University in Saint Louis,
Jennifer Romich, PhD, University of Washington,
Amy Baker, PhD, University of Pennsylvania and
David Pate, PhD, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Although there are immediate emergency needs, the COVID-19 pandemic is not just a short-term crisis. With the enormity of the COVID-19 pandemic, many people have suffered both physically and economically. The COVID-19 mortality rate for Black Americans is more than twice that of other racial and ethnic groups, including Whites, Latinos, and Asians (APM Research Lab). Those over the age of 65 and with underlying health conditions are particularly vulnerable. While many willingly spent months sheltering in place, others were front-line and essential workers, risking exposure to the virus just by going in to do their jobs, often at menial wages. With the complete shut-down of many business sectors, millions became unemployed and had limited resources to pay their bills and meet even basic needs for food and shelter. Holes in our public policy safety net that have existed for decades became even more apparent during this moment. Existing economic inequality and social disparities can easily grow worse. In response, trillions of dollars have been spent by government with limited discussion. It is time for a thoughtful conversation outlining a progressive response that supports those in need while also assuring a recovery that is sustainable and equitable.
The aftermath of the pandemic opens an opportunity for major political change. There have been moments of crisis in U.S. history where we have responded with vision and concern for the most vulnerable. We continue to be an imperfect union, but the country can hold itself accountable to higher ideals. This roundtable intends to highlight lessons from past crises (Great Depression, natural disasters, Great Recession) and critique efforts over the last 6-9 months. It will end with a discussion of the role of social workers in the past as well as what we might do in the future to ease the economic burdens faced by the most vulnerable by promoting policies that reduce rather than exacerbate economic inequality. One key issue obviously is universal access to quality health care and prevention. Other major options for innovative policy change include: Universal Basic Income, a Jobs Guarantee, and Universal Asset Building. When we imagine policy platforms that offer options that include everyone, a better future can emerge with protections and benefits that no longer leave out large segments of the population.
The roundtable is organized by the Grand Challenges For Social Work: Reduce Extreme Economic Inequality.