The End Of COVID Benefits | Crooked Media
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June 08, 2021
What A Day
The End Of COVID Benefits

In This Episode

  • Several social programs launched during the pandemic are set to expire soon, including an eviction moratorium and enhanced unemployment benefits. Federal student loan payments will be due again starting October 1st, with no movement from the White House yet towards cancellation.
  • The Supreme Court ruled that immigrants who came to the U.S. for humanitarian reasons can’t apply for a green card if they entered unlawfully. SCOTUS will continue issuing big decisions through the end of the month on issues that include healthcare, voting rights, LGBTQ rights, and more.
  • And in headlines: a deadly train crash in Pakistan, Google pays $270 million for anti-trust violations in France, and the FDA approves a new Alzheimer’s treatment.





Akilah Hughes: It’s Tuesday, June 8th. I’m Akilah Hughes.


Gideon Resnick: And I’m Gideon Resnick, and this is What A Day, where we’re pledging to beat Jeff Bezos to space with our new rocket ship company.


Akilah Hughes: Yeah, we started designing rocket ships today and we think we’ll be ready in the next one to two weeks.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, we’ll save time by not testing it at all. On today’s show, we review the important cases the Supreme Court will rule on in the coming weeks, including one issue just yesterday that affects some immigrants. Plus, we’ll have headlines.


Akilah Hughes: But first, the latest:


[clip of D Taylor] Those people are without jobs so the unemployment and also the money for food and frankly, the eviction moratorium has been key. So I can’t thank you enough, but nobody wants any of that stuff. They want to go back to work. At the same time, you could open up every place in the world, if people don’t feel safe, they’re not going to come back.


Akilah Hughes: All right. So that was D Taylor, the president of the union Unite Here, speaking before a House committee just over a week ago. And as you heard, the country’s relief programs have been crucial for workers like the ones he represents, mostly in the hospitality industry. But some of those workers still don’t feel safe going back. And now several of those programs are going to be ending very, very soon. And it’s got some people anxious. So Gideon take us through where things stand at the moment.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, so first to highlight here is that a national eviction moratorium that had been in place is set to expire on June 30th. So end of the month. That means that there could conceivably be this wave of evictions that we see across the country. There are some government estimates that around 11 million or more tenants are actually at risk here. So it’s pretty serious. And people in a few states like New York and New Jersey have a bit of a grace period. People there are eligible for extensions beyond that June 30th date. And then in Oregon, reportedly renters have until the end of February of next year to make up for certain lapsed payments that they might have. But there’s little chance, really, that the national moratorium is going to be extended because as a reminder, a federal judge last month overturned the moratorium before issuing a stay on her decision, keeping it in place for now while the DOJ appeals that ruling. Then just days ago, real estate groups—the good guys in every situation—asked the Supreme Court to block the government from enforcing the moratorium as well. Other than all of that, we really haven’t heard more from the administration on an extension.


Akilah Hughes: And on top of everything, renters have been struggling to access the $47 billion federal rent relief program out there, too.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, there’s a lot of reporting on that about the challenge of actually getting money into the hands of people who need it. There are some local governments that have just been totally backed up, while some tenants have had difficulty with the applications they have to fill out. For example, The Washington Post reported that Prince George’s County in Maryland had only spent 3.5 million of the 27 million it had gotten federal rent relief as of early May. That eventually contributed to a rent strike in one neighborhood. We can link to that story in the show notes.


Akilah Hughes: Then on top of that, enhanced unemployment benefits are set to end soon too. That’s where the federal government granted an extra $300 a week to people who lost their jobs during the pandemic in addition to what they would have normally collected. So what’s happening there?


Gideon Resnick: Well, half of all U.S. states, the 25 run by—drumroll, please—Republican governors are opting out of the federal program early. Four states are doing it this Saturday actually: Mississippi, Missouri, Alaska and Iowa, and the rest are going to follow through in the weeks leading up to July 10th. One economist told CNBC that’s going to impact about four million Americans. And now those states could hypothetically stay in the program to help out their citizens, but Republican lawmakers have argued that the extra $300, just $300 a week, is not keeping people from poverty, but rather incentivizing people to not look for jobs, when the reality is that there are tons of concerns like health, child care options and more that make this a very complicated moment for a lot of people. That doesn’t even get into the issue of wages themselves not being high enough to risk going back to work. Now that federal program runs out for everyone in September, and the White House has said they don’t plan on renewing the benefits. Last Friday, in fact, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that Republican governors have, quote “every right” to end the benefits early. But losing out on that assistance will be a major blow to people out there who used it to survive. Overall, we’re talking about 15 million Americans that are reportedly getting some federal unemployment assistance.


Akilah Hughes: Yeah, and then one last big piece of this. So further down the road, federal student loan payments will be due again starting October 1st. They’d been frozen since March 2020—we love that. But what do we know about how this is going to impact people? Because, you know, I’m really not trying to pay mine back.


Gideon Resnick: Hard same. It is wild, truly that none of this has been forgiven at all. We are talking about us. We were talking about over 40 million federal loan holders who are going to need to start making these payments after this freeze is over.


Akilah Hughes: No. I don’t want to do that.


Gideon Resnick: This is the official WAD position. I hope the administration is listening.


Akilah Hughes: Yeah.


Gideon Resnick: Americans overall owe nearly two trillion in student debt, and there has been little to no movement from the White House on basically any cancelation after Biden campaigned on just a modest amount compared to a lot of other Democrats. And almost two months ago, Biden’s Chief of Staff, Ron Klain, said that a memo was being prepared to see if there was a legal way that the White House could just cancel student debt through executive action. But since then, crickets. Or depending on where you are, cicadas chirping—we always have to mention them. One of the obvious things about this crush of debt that many of us has experienced, it is deeply challenging to keep up with it, particularly for people that are just beginning their careers. So on top of everything else, it is this massive anchor on this generation’s ability to build any kind of wealth, with even greater impacts on Black students.


Akilah Hughes: Preach.


Gideon Resnick: There will certainly be continued pressure on the administration on all these issues, especially that one on student loans. Because if they’re just left unchecked, like so many other things, millions of Americans could be sucked into more debt just as the whole country is trying to crawl out of the pandemic’s economic devastation. We’ll keep track of how all this shakes out in the months to come. But now, Akilah, let’s turn to the Supreme Court, where starting this week and through the rest of the month, they are going to be issuing some big decisions. And in fact, one came down just yesterday.


Akilah Hughes: That’s right. So the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that immigrants who came to the U.S. for humanitarian reasons, like refugees can’t apply for a green card if they entered unlawfully. So in other words, if you were being persecuted and threatened with death where you lived, and then you didn’t want to wait on bureaucracy and paperwork to, you know, save your own life, and were like, screw this, I’m just going to get to the U.S. And figure it out there—well, our government is saying you actually just have to go back to your home country when the Department of Homeland Security designates it as safe again, leaving behind the life you’ve built up for yourself here in the U.S.


Gideon Resnick: Well, with that in mind, how many people are actually going to be affected by this ruling?


Akilah Hughes: So according to the Associated Press, approximately 400,000 foreign nationals in the United States have temporary protected status, or TPS. So at least them, but certainly all of their families and friends, are going to be affected. And their kids, if they were born here. I mean, it’s just really a lot of lives just upended for no reason. But one bit of good news is that Congress has the power to change the law so people in the TPS program could apply for permanent residency. It passed in the House, but has an unknown future in the Senate. So now Joe Manchin is probably going to do the wrong thing. Plus, President Biden has tried to play both sides of this issue by both supporting a change in law, but also agreeing that TPS holders shouldn’t get a green card under the current law. America.


Gideon Resnick: Mm hmm. That is the way we operate. So we are now entering a big season overall for a Supreme Court rulings shaking out, many of which will come by the end of this month. And this year is especially fraught. This ruling on immigration was a big one to watch, but what else is on the docket coming up?


Akilah Hughes: All right. So we have an ACA ruling that could overturn Obamacare in a pandemic. That case is about whether it’s illegal to have a mandate. That means whether you could face a fine for not having coverage. They’ll also rule on voting rights based on an Arizona law that makes ballot harvesting illegal, and allows officials to discard ballots cast at the wrong location. The justices will be deciding a gay rights case out of Philly about whether a religious organization can screen out prospective LGBTQ foster parents. My God. Then there’s that free speech case, where a teen was suspended from her school’s cheerleading team after bad mouthing it on Snapchat while off campus. We all have a right to be on cheer squad, so I get it. A lot to watch for in the coming weeks. And here’s one bonus: maybe, oh, maybe Justice Breyer will retire. Hoping it’s Amy Coney Barrett, but I’m not holding my breath. [laughs] We’ll be with you when the rulings come down. But that’s the latest from.


Akilah Hughes: It’s Tuesday, WAD squad, and today we’re doing a segment called The Solution, where we propose a fix to a news story that has created chaos in our world. Jeff Bezos announced yesterday that he’s going to space on July 20th in a video seemingly pulled from the lost CBS show “Undercover Bezos,” he revealed who he’s bringing on the trip.


[clip of Bezos brothers] I invited my brother to come on this first flight because we’re closest friends. I really want you to come with me. Would you?


[clip of Bezos brothers] Are you serious?


[clip of Bezos brothers] I am. I think it would be meaningful.


Akilah Hughes: I love the question: are you serious? What kind of joke is that? [laughs] Want you to come to space with me? Just kidding. I’m still going to space. Anyway, the Bezoses will travel 60 miles above Earth on a ship made by Jeff’s company, Blue Origin, giving the company much needed publicity since Blue Origin is lagging behind Elon Musk’s company, SpaceX, in government contracts and number of space flights. Given the way we feel about Bezos, his treatment of workers, and his belief that it’s OK for one guy to own the entire world and not even feel weird about it, any victory of his sort of feels like a failure for us. So for Jeff Bezos’s space flight, here’s The Solution.


Gideon Resnick: We’re here by drafting Warren Buffett to beat Jeff Bezos and become the first oligarch in space. Mr. Buffett has the resources, the knowhow, and at 90-years old, he will be at ease among the stars because many of them are his same age. Mr. Buffett, you’re one of the last billionaires to not have his own rocket ship company, so you can assume everyone is laughing at you whenever you step outside of Eyes Wide Shut-style masked balls. But you can change that today. Buy a spaceship, lift off, and let the G forces pull back your face again until it is more smooth and unblemished than Buzz Lightyear’s. Be a part of the solution, Warren Buffett. Beat Jeff Bezos to space.


Akilah Hughes: Wow, that’s really powerful. Thank you. That was The Solution, I think that was a solution. And we’ll be back after some ads.


[ad break]


Akilah Hughes: Let’s wrap up with some headlines.


[sung] Headlines.


Gideon Resnick: Two passenger trains in Pakistan collided early yesterday, causing a tragic crash that took the lives of at least 51 people. Over 100 people were injured in the wreckage, which took over 15 hours to detangle and cut through. The crash happened as a result of one of the trains becoming derailed as an oncoming train headed in its direction. Local authorities are still investigating what led to the derailment. Pakistan’s railway system has a bad record when it comes to safety. The most recent massive accident happened just two years before this, killing around 70 people. This latest tragedy sparked renewed criticism from politicians and the public, demanding more action from the government to ensure that using the trains is safe.


Gideon Resnick: Google agreed to pay a $270 million fine in an antitrust settlement with French regulators. French authorities accuse Google of favoring its own digital advertising marketplace over competing platforms and publishers. According to the watchdog, this is the first time the tech giant has been probed for its complex advertisement algorithm, which many websites rely on to sell their ads. $270 million might be considered pocket change for a company that made $41 billion last year alone. But the move has big implications on the future of the platform. In the settlement, Google agreed to make it easier for French publishers to use its data and ad tools for advertising. This decision could also help arguments in similar antitrust cases that the platform is facing in the U.S.


Gideon Resnick: Oui. Oui. The Federal Drug Administration approved the first new treatment for Alzheimer’s in 18 years yesterday, with one small catch: there’s very little evidence that it actually works. Aduhelm is produced by Biogen, and its mode of action is to target proteins called amyloids that form plaques in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients. Aduhelm has been proven to reduce amyloid levels, but that doesn’t matter unless it’s accompanied by cognitive benefits. And many Alzheimer’s experts say the evidence for any reduction in cognitive decline is unconvincing at this point. The FDA recognizes this deficit as well, so its approval is conditional, and Biogen is being required to conduct a new clinical trial. In the meantime, the drug will sell for a very pricey $56,000 per patient per year. Patient advocacy group celebrated the drug’s approval despite its dubious efficacy and scary sounding side effects. And that is a sign of the extreme demand for better treatments for Alzheimer’s.


Akilah Hughes: It’s time to hop in the Target returns line for last month’s Colonial Pipeline hackers because much of the ransom money they were paid has now been recovered by the U.S. government. The Justice Department made the announcement yesterday in a prime example of what we call “cyber karma,” DOJ officials were able to retrieve about $2,3 million in ransom by hacking into the Bitcoin wallet of the pipeline hackers. The officials used yesterday’s announcement to encourage companies to be transparent about ransomware attacks. There are incentives for companies to keep hacks secret, but the DOJ said disclosure can allow the government to assist with recovery and prevent subsequent attacks. Out of an abundance of caution, we’re recommending you email Joe Biden every time you illegally download a movie or ignore a notification that says 500 of your passwords are compromised.


Gideon Resnick: Thankfully, he is on the case in response to every single one.


Akilah Hughes: Yeah, he’s really going to get me my Tumblr back. And those are the headlines.


Gideon Resnick: That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, beat Jeff Bezos to space, and tell your friends to listen.


Akilah Hughes: And if you’re into reading, and not just the blockchain looking for hackers’ wallets like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at I’m Akilah Hughes.


Gideon Resnick: I’m Gideon Resnick


[together]: And heads up, your password may be compromised!


Akilah Hughes: You know. It could happen. It happens every day I guess.


Akilah Hughes: What A Day is a production of Crooked Media.


Gideon Resnick: It’s recorded and mixed by Charlotte Landes.


Akilah Hughes: Sonia Htoon and Jazzi Marine are our associate producers.


Gideon Resnick: Our head writer is Jon Millstein, and our executive producers are Leo Duran, Akilah Hughes and me.


Akilah Hughes: Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.