April 22, 2020

More Relief for Small Businesses, But Hurdles Ahead

Even though the Senate unanimously approved its fourth coronavirus bill to bring quick help for beleaguered small businesses, consensus on bigger relief still seems far off.

The $484 billion bill passed by the Senate yesterday provides $310 billion for the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program, $60 billion for another small business disaster loan program, $75 billion for hospitals and $25 billion for additional testing. Not included: $150 billion Democrats requested for state and local governments.

The House is expected to pass this aid package as soon as tomorrow, though potential no votes from both parties could signal difficulties ahead for the next package.

With neither Chamber likely to return before May 4 and contentious discussions expected, the next larger package may not emerge before mid-to-late May at the earliest.

Democrats support quick action on state and local assistance when Congress returns. They also want additional tax relief for individuals, hospital and first responder funding and possibly extended unemployment benefits. President Trump signaled a desire for state and local government relief in the next package, as well as infrastructure investments, tax incentives for restaurants, sports and entertainment and payroll tax cuts.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will likely wait and see how national and state economies fare before moving on the next aid package and indicated today that states should have the option of bankruptcy.

Virus’ Impacts in Africa Will Ripple Widely

COVID-19 was slow to reach Africa, yet its effects on the continent will likely be profound.

As of April 20, almost every African country had reported a COVID-19 case. But real numbers are likely to be much higher.

Large populations with underlying health challenges in dense living conditions have poor access to food, water and sanitation. And strained healthcare systems lacking medical supplies and heightened public distrust in institutions mean that even the strongest response from governments may not contain the virus.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates the continent could see 10 million cases of coronavirus in the next six months. And the economic and geopolitical costs could be severe: decreased spending on education, youth engagement and civil society projects, as well as slowed investment and trade leading to unemployment.

Opportunistic political leaders may use the crisis to entrench power and further marginalize disenfranchised groups, creating conditions in which extremism thrives.

Africa’s most prominent terrorist groups are already taking advantage of the crisis. In March, Boko Haram attacked security forces in Chad, killing almost 100 soldiers near the border with Nigeria and Niger.

Potential recruitment and territorial expansion of terrorist groups may have long-lasting consequences for the continent and beyond.

COVID-19 By The Numbers


Today marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, when some 20 million Americans took to the streets to advocate for environmental action.

The COVID-19 pandemic has converted mass in-person climate protests around the world to three days of live-streamed content. And activists have quickly pivoted to a new, more relevant message: To avert another impending crisis, measures that address climate change must be central to COVID-19 recovery efforts.

But can #EarthDayAtHome be all things to all people? Differing priorities among participating groups means that programming bounces from yoga classes to policy discussions to a cooking demonstration by Natalie Portman. This, combined with the challenge of getting people to tune in online, may dilute the event’s power to inspire action.

The vitality of this movement has often been measured by the size of its crowds. So the success or failure of this online mobilization may inform the future of activism in other movements that also rely heavily on in-person marches and protests.

Pandemic at the Polls

Coronavirus will impact how people vote and who they vote for.

The U.S. is on the brink of a recession. We’re reporting the highest rates of unemployment since the Great Depression and the stock market has been trending downward since January. It’s safe to say the pandemic will be top of mind come November.

Fifty-three percent of Americans say President Trump has not done a very good job at handling the outbreak. And though only half of Democrats (56%) are excited about voting this year, former VP Joe Biden is polling ahead of Trump nationwide and in key battleground states.

The coronavirus is also changing how campaigns and elections are run. Several state primaries and the Democratic convention are delayed, campaign rallies across the nation have been canceled and higher advertising spends are replacing in-person rallies and town halls.

Almost three quarters of Americans (72%) also support requiring vote-by-mail measures in November to avoid large crowds at polling places.

Expect polling numbers to shift as more Americans face the crisis’ impacts.