Today, we learned that another 2.1 million people filed for unemployment last week, bringing the total number of new unemployment claims since this crisis began to more than 40 million. This is just the latest evidence of Donald Trump’s utter failure to do what a president should and must do: lead in a crisis. He ignored the warnings, refused to prepare the country, and wasn’t honest with the American people about what was needed — and we are all living with the horrific results. Now, nearly a quarter of the American workforce has filed for unemployment — a figure so staggering that it would have seemed unthinkable not long ago.
Though the coronavirus is to blame for planting the seeds of this damage, we know that Donald Trump’s persistent failure to act is responsible for the tragic and unprecedented scale of the crisis. Trump was warned for months about the urgency of the situation, but sat on his hands — undermining public health experts and spinning false promises to the American people to prop up his political standing at the expense of public safety.
Germany, by contrast, had its first reported case of coronavirus almost a week after the United States, but has suffered only a tiny fraction of the unemployment we’ve faced thanks to a swift and effective public health response. Millions more Americans would be employed today — and our lives would have a far greater semblance of normalcy — had Trump responded with similar resolve. A devastating study released last week found that 36,000 people could have been saved had Trump taken action even one week earlier. Instead, more than 100,000 Americans have been lost forever, and the day-to-day lives and future dreams of 40 million people and their families have been thrown off course.
Even now, Trump refuses to focus on getting help to those who need it most.
- The largest single recipient of relief funds intended for small businesses was a hotel executive and major Trump donor who claimed more than $58 million in taxpayer bailout money.
- A private jet company founded by a Trump donor received another $27 million.
- A cell phone location-tracking company that has been hired by the Trump campaign to target voters obtained nearly $3 million.
Meanwhile, actual small businesses and mom-and-pop entrepreneurs — the lifeblood of local economies — are being turned away in droves. As if that weren’t enough, Trump has also used the cover of this crisis to brazenly fire five inspectors general, the public watchdogs whose job it is to guard against corruption — including the official responsible for providing oversight of pandemic relief funds.
The corruption is obvious — the incompetence even more so. Two months after Congress passed the CARES Act to speed relief to the American people, not one dollar allocated for the Main Street Lending Program — a $600 billion fund designed to help small and medium-sized businesses across America — has been disbursed. Not one dollar, as businesses keep laying workers off and struggle through some of the most brutal months in modern history. Wall Street has gotten the help it needs; Main Street is still waiting. There is no excuse for this Administration’s lack of urgency or care given all that the American people are enduring right now.
I oversaw the implementation of the nearly $800 billion Recovery Act — with less than 0.2 percent waste, fraud, and abuse. That response didn’t happen by magic. It took sustained focus and constant pressure and personal engagement at the highest levels to make sure we were implementing the program efficiently and effectively on behalf of the American people. We need that type of response right now — albeit on a dramatically larger scale.
Donald Trump should be laser-focused on getting relief out as fast as possible to the people who actually need it — with no favoritism and no fraud. That he continues to occupy himself with self-pitying tweets and dangerous conspiracy theories in the face of an ongoing, world-historic crisis killing thousands of Americans each day, and putting millions more out of work is beyond comprehension. I pray that the President thinks of them.