CHN’s COVID-19 Watch: Tracking Hardship September 24, 2021


September 24, 2021

  COVID-19 HardshipSeptember 24, 2021 

The congressional chaos edition. Next week, Congress may take up four measures that could greatly affect both the short- and long-term health of our nation, for better or worse. First there is President Biden’s critically important Build Back Better plan – among many vital items, it would ensure that poor people are not left out of Medicaid and would keep the Child Tax Credit expansions from ending. Next there is important, bipartisan legislation to upgrade America’s physical infrastructure. Then there is the business of keeping the federal government open – without action, things shut down on October 1. Last but certainly not least, there is the thorny issue of the U.S. debt ceiling – without action, our country will default on its financial obligations some time in October. Experts say such a doomsday scenario could immediately plunge the nation into recession. 

Meanwhile, the pandemic brings mixed news. On the positive side, there are indications that we are at, or probably beyond, the peak of Delta infections. For roughly the past week, the daily infection rate nationwide has declined. But this is of little solace to remaining hotspots – places like Kentucky, Idaho, Oregon and Alaska – Alaska now has the nation’s highest daily infection rate, and COVID-19 is ravaging indigenous populations. 

Several states are now invoking “crisis standards of care” — that is hospital-speak for rationing precious health care resources, meaning some people will not receive the care they need because hospitals with short supplies and overextended staff simply cannot provide it. We are not out of the woods yet – not by a long shot. And despite some modelling that shows caseloads leveling off and dropping precipitously by March, the possibility does exist that we will see a winter surge – history tells us that pandemics in particular thrive in early January. 

Members of Congress will, in their coming votes, either invest in our health now and our economic future, or recklessly just say “No.”  Senator Mitch McConnell is saying “No” – he has said he won’t vote to prevent default and will allow a government shutdown. And he opposes the Build Back Better investments. Every member of Congress needs to hear from their constituents that we’re watching, and need them to say “Yes” to responsible investments and “No” to reckless games of chicken while our future is at stake.  

You can tell them here.    



126,760 new COVID-19 infections were reported in the U.S. on Thursday, September 23 (that’s a 7-day average). That’s a 14 percent decrease from the previous 14 days. But the number of daily deaths — 2,036 – was up 29 percent during that same period. Tweet this.


6 million/9% 


Mark Zandi, Chief Economist at Moody’s Analytics, warns that a prolonged impasse over the debt ceiling would cost the economy up to 6 million jobs, wipe out as much as $15 trillion in household wealth, and send the unemployment rate roughly to 9 percent, from around 5 percent right now. Tweet this.


500 million 


The number of vaccine doses the Biden Administration has pledged to supply to the rest of the world. That almost doubles the U.S. commitment, which now stands at 1.1 billion. Still, fewer than one-third of those doses, or 300 million, are expected to be delivered by the end of this year. Tweet this.



Charter school enrollment in the U.S. jumped 7.1 percent between the 2019-2020 school year and the 2020-2021 school year. That’s an increase of about 240,000 students. Meanwhile, non-charter public school enrollment dropped by 3.3 percent – a whopping 1.5 million students. It’s typically wealthier and white students who make the switch – and because school funding is often based on enrollment, this trend will only serve to exacerbate racial inequities in education. Tweet this.



The net number of workers the child care industry has lost since the pandemic began. That’s more than a 10 percent decline from pre-pandemic levels. More than 10,000 workers have left the industry since June alone. Tweet this.


1.6 million 


The number of mothers of children under 17 who left the workforce after the pandemic began and have not returned.


$15 billion/35 million 

Last week, the IRS distributed a total of $15 billion in expanded Child Tax Credit (CTC) payments to 35 million families – but some qualifying families did not receive their payments and the IRS cannot explain why. The IRS acknowledged there was a problem in August as well – some families, fewer than 15 percent, who received direct deposit payments in July were mailed paper checks for August.


-1.9 million/more than half 

1.9 million fewer people living with children reported not having enough to eat during the first half of September as compared to the period before the CTC monthly payments started (6/23-7/5). Of those reporting that they got CTC payments, more than half (52.5%) said they used the money to buy food.


11.7 million/5.5 million 

Stimulus payments in 2020 helped lift 11.7 million Americans out of poverty; expanded unemployment insurance lifted another 5.5 million Americans out of poverty. Both programs have now ended.



Modelling shows that the U.S. is expected to reach a cumulative total of more than 780,000 deaths from COVID-19 by March. If true, that would mean roughly 100,000 more deaths over the next five months.