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16 Apr 2020

Federal Ineptitude Runs Amok; Signs of Optimism Here and There—Coachella Valley Independent Daily Digest: April 16, 2020

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Today was the day my sadness turned to anger.

I don’t know if this is a stages-of-grief thing, or whether it was just the news of the day, or maybe a little bit of both. Whatever the cause, after weeks of feeling more sadness than anything else regarding the pandemic, today, I’m pissed.

The thing that set me off was the news that after a few short weeks, all of the small-business-loan stimulus loan money is gone, at least for now. That’s $349 billion, so long, goodbye. The $10 billion in disaster loans is gone, too.

Then there is the news that hedge funds—yes, hedge funds—are applying for and getting some of this money—money, that according to the name of the program, is supposed to protect paychecks.

“Ironically, hedge funds are designed to employ as few people as possible so star traders don’t have to share millions of dollars in fees. The industry gets its name from the premise it can generate gains even when markets fall,” says the Bloomberg news story.

It’s also worth remembering that the president fired the inspector general who was supposed to watch over all this money, among other moves the executive branch made to limit oversight of how this taxpayer money was being spent.

Then I read a story about the parent company of Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, which has 5,000 employees, getting $20 million in Paycheck Protection Program money. Wait … wasn’t the Paycheck Protection Program supposed to help smaller businesses?

“The loans were intended for businesses with fewer than 500 employees, but language in the $2 trillion stimulus bill allows restaurants and hotel chains to participate regardless of how many people they employ,” reports The Wall Street Journal.

Meanwhile, many local restaurant owners I know are wailing on social media that they haven’t received a dime yet.

Folks, the virus is bad enough. The fact that first our president fired the pandemic response team a couple years ago, then constantly downplayed the threat before it was too late, and is now doing everything in his power to lessen oversight of an unbelievably shitty and ineffective stimulus bill has me livid.

People are scared and dying. Businesses are dying. Meanwhile, instead of trying to ease fears or show empathy for his sick and/or frightened constituents, Donald Trump is tweeting falsehoods about political rivals and continuing his assaults on the media.

It doesn’t matter what your politics are—the ineptitude of the federal government should have everyone furious right now.

Today’s links:

• Earlier today, before my mood when to crap, I was again was part of the I Love Gay Palm Springs podcast with Dr. Laura Rush, with guest David Perry. Thankfully, Dr. Rush is optimistic about things.

• Remember what we said earlier about federal-government ineptitude? That, alas, extends to the Treasury Department and the IRS regarding getting stimulus funds to a whole lot of people who need help.

• Remember what we said earlier about federal government ineptitude … again? Check out this quote, from The Washington Post, about the effort to find effective treatments in the U.S.: “It’s a cacophony—it’s not an orchestra. There’s no conductor. My heart aches over the complete chaos in the response.”

• As if this wasn’t all scary enough, it appears COVID-19 is causing serious neurological problems in some people, according to this pants-wetting article from Wired.

• Oh great! Time Magazine reports that other countries’ militaries are messing around with us at this time when the U.S. is focusing on the coronavirus.

• Oh great! The rate of testing in the country is actually slowing down, according to Politico—even though commercial labs aren’t at full capacity.

• In California, like much of the rest of the country, COVID-19 is taking a disproportionately large toll on African-Americans.

Chef Thomas Keller has been one of the leading voices in the fight to get insurance companies to pay restaurants who have business-interruption insurance. Here’s his direct take, via NBC News.

• OK, let’s take a happier turn toward some hopeful signs: Some neighboring counties plan to start letting some businesses reopen later next month, per the Los Angeles Times.

• A recent update from Eisenhower Health shares good news on the medical side, and not-so-good news on the financial side.

• Armistead Maupin, the San Francisco author whose Tales of the City have delighted people for decades, is reading stories from his new home in London several times per week.

That’s all we have for today. Please make sure your virtual events are included in our online calendar. If you can spare a few bucks, and value independent, quality local journalism, please consider becoming a supporter of the Independent, since we’re clearly not getting any small-business loans anytime soon. Wash your hands. Wear a mask when you go out into public. Be safe. Back tomorrow.

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