I see the UK government’s efforts towards taking care of everyone during this lockdown for the COVID-19 pandemic and, on the one hand, I applaud them for making bold efforts but, on the other hand, I wonder if there’s a better way.
This crisis is impacting many people very severely, but there are others not seeing much impact at all and for some, they’re actually benefitting (eg. food sellers). This isn’t fair. Everyone needs to be looked after. The luck of the draw shouldn’t come into it.
We really need to ensure that all people who need looking after, those who are badly affected, are well taken care of. In a different world I can imagine local communities bearing the brunt of taking care of everyone in their immediate vicinity, but our communities are not working this way in general (although I’m happy to see signs of this improving every day). There has to be a centralised government response to such needs.
A new approach
Here’s an approach that I believe would be better than the one we’re taking now in the UK. It’s an emergency assistance programme that would apply while the country is in lockdown to tackle a virus, and maybe for a bit longer after that.
- If you are still earning a wage above XXX per week, or live in a household earning more than YYY per week, then the following doesn’t apply to you – you’re one of the lucky ones
- The above-mentioned wages and earnings also applies to self-employed people who can demonstrate their income has diminished
- The values of XXX, YYY and ZZZ are to be determined, of course
- And if you are not currently supported by government benefits
- Utility bills will be paid by the government (within a reasonable range of the previous historical bills) – including current Broadband agreements
- Council Rates are suspended
- Rent is suspended
- Mortgage payments are suspended
- Strata Fees are suspended
- Interest on current credit card debts are suspended (not new debts!)
- Car repayments (and the like) are suspended
- Child support payments are suspended (everyone needing support will be caught by the following points)
- You will be paid a stipend of ZZZ per week for the express use of buying essential food and supplies
- The amount of the stipend ZZZ will have a maximum that will be scaled down depending on factors like net worth and accumulated savings of the household (basically, if you have lots of money, you can get by for a while)
- This goes for every person in the UK – in a household earning under YYY, then each member of the household will receive ZZZ
- With the above programme, every person in the UK will be guaranteed to be able to afford food and not to be evicted
- Setup a hotline for ensuring that people with specific problems get consideration
Will there be people who will abuse this situation? Sure. Have to deal with that later. The priority would be to get money to people and then, if it is later found that they we’re not telling the whole truth, recover overpayments later.
What about companies?
The first message for companies is that, given the above programme for individuals, if your company’s work has disappeared and you can’t keep employing your staff, then don’t lay them off, just stop paying them. Then they will taken care of by the above programme and won’t be left desperate. This goes for any company and it means that some companies might be able to keep operating with a limited workforce, with the rest of their staff not being paid yet being taken care of by the government programme.
- If a company’s business has halted because of the pandemic lockdown, or if the company can demonstrate severe restriction of business and financial difficulty
- Utilities for minimum services to keep sites mothballed will be paid by the government
- Business Rates are suspended
- Rent is suspended
- Interest charged on debts are suspended
- Lease repayments are suspended
- Other essential costs required to keep the business mothballed will be paid by the government
- Setup a hotline ensuring that companies with specific problems get consideration
The main aim of this company specific programme is to ensure that as many companies as possible are in a position to get back to business quickly after the lockdown is lifted.
Taking care of everyone
I believe the programme outlined above would work better than the one in place today. There seems to be too many people missed today, judging by the number of people applying for universal credit, and too many companies in desperate situations.
I’m sure I’ve missed some important details (that I’ll surely be told about), but the above makes sense to me and helps all the people and companies in need. The main concern I have is the complexity of administering such a programme, but the governments plans today are also complex and difficult to administer. The other possibility, requiring very limited administration, would be to send every single person in the UK a small stipend, but this might not be fair nor the best way to utilise the available money nor the best way to help the people in the most need.
The most important thing is that we are taking care of everyone in need during this pandemic. It seems like that’s not happening at the moment – too many people are being missed. This has to be our top priority, after getting control of the pandemic of course. If a programme like the one above was in place, I’d feel more confident that we really are taking care of everyone.