As of 1 April, 950,000 new people had applied for Universal Credit in just two weeks. Usually new applications run at about 100,000 a week. Hundreds of thousands, or millions, of people have lost their jobs because they were on casual contracts, and because they worked for businesses which have laid them off or simply shut down.
Many small employers have laid off workers, but also big ones, like universities.
Many who are self-employed — really self-employed, or formally self-employed while really being wage-workers — are not able to use the government’s scheme for aid to the self-employed, or at least not to get money from it fast.
The government has increased the rates of Universal Credit (thus admitting that they were inadequate before), and loosened the conditions and checking on applications.
Even so, for the first five weeks after a claim, you can get no Universal Credit. Only, if you’re lucky, a repayable advance. The Salvation Army has called for these advances to be made non-repayable.
In the USA, Bernie Sanders has demanded a backstop payment, made immediately, automatically, and without application procedures, of $2000 a month for every household.
Something like that, coupled with cancellation of rent, mortgage, and utility payments during the lockdown, would safeguard those otherwise falling through the big holes in the “safety net”.
The government should also requisition the big supermarket chains and their delivery operations so as to deliver food to those in need identified by local mutual aid groups.
The core demand should be: work or full pay for all! In Germany and France, previously-established schemes, essentially subsidies to employers whereby the government pays 60% (Germany) or 84% (France) of wages to workers temporarily laid off or on short hours, have softened the blow recently. Some five million workers in France are on that scheme now.
In Italy, especially the south, where pre-pandemic more people depended on insecure employment or the “black economy”, the blow is particularly harsh.
In the USA, where there is no standard provision for sick pay and no job security for most, likewise.