EDITORIAL: It's time for us to start showing Christmas goodwill for less fortunate

Keli Paaske searches for jobs online from the dining room of her home in Olathe, Kan. Friday, Dec. 4, 2020. Paaske was laid off in August from a company supplying fire doors to hospitals after being furloughed for five months and has struggled to find a new job. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
  • Two unemployment programs are set to expire the day after Christmas.
  • More than 9 million people will risk losing federal jobless aid that averages about $320 a week.
  • A federal moratorium on evictions for renters expires at the end of the year.
  • A suspension of payments on federal student loans will expire at the end of January.

There’s long been an economic divide in America.

The COVID-19 pandemic, however, has only served to widen the canyon that separates the well off and the destitute, and it’s a problem that will likely get worse in the months to come.

Many of us have weathered the COVID-19 pandemic just fine. In fact, some folks have seen their financial outlook actually improve. Many have found that they are spending less simply because there are fewer activities to spend money on. Then there are the folks who are now working from home, either on a full-time or part-time basis. Those folks are saving considerable money in gas and wear and tear on their vehicles.

Unfortunately, that’s not the case for everyone.

A bleak outlook for millions facing cutoff of U.S. jobless aid

Bleak outlook for many: The Associated Press recently reported about the bleak outlook that is looming for millions of Americans who are facing a cutoff of U.S. jobless aid.

Congress needs to extend two unemployment programs that are set to expire the day after Christmas. If no deal is reached, more than 9 million people will risk losing federal jobless aid that averages about $320 a week and that typically serves as their only source of income.

Talk about getting a hunk of coal in your Christmas stocking.

Perilous time: The end of jobless aid is approaching at an especially perilous time. Job growth slowed sharply in November, and many foresee a net loss of jobs in December for the first time since April.

The culprit in all of this, of course, is the merciless coronavirus. The recent spike in COVID-19 cases is out of control, both here in Pennsylvania and across the nation.

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Yes, an effective vaccine should become widely distributed in the months ahead, but many economists say the economic picture will worsen before it improves.

We can hope that a lame-duck Congress does the right thing and extends the much-needed relief for millions of unemployed Americans, but there’s certainly no guarantee that will happen.

And unemployment compensation is far from the only issue. Other government protections are also set to expire at the end of this year, including a federal moratorium on evictions for renters. A suspension of payments on federal student loans will expire at the end of January.

For some, it’s shaping up as a perfect winter storm of economic distress.

So, what can we do, in the meantime, to help our family members and neighbors who are struggling financially?

Well, it’s pretty simple, really.

First, show a little human decency to those in less fortunate situations. Don’t immediately assume that someone who is out of work doesn’t want to work.

Second, offer a helping hand. Ask them if they need anything, and if they do, do what you can to alleviate their suffering. A little person-to-person compassion can go a long way.

Finally, check out the many local charitable institutions that offer help to those in financial distress, and make a contribution or, even better, volunteer your time.

Show some Christmas spirit: After all, it is the holiday season. For those who are doing OK financially during these troubled times, the least we can do is display a little holiday goodwill and share our good fortune with others who aren’t so fortunate.

After all, even the Grinch and Mr. Scrooge eventually came around to show a little Christmas spirit. Can’t we do as much?