The morning of July 15, two banners dropped from the parking structure at Eighth and Front streets in downtown Boise—one of the most visible locations in the City of Trees. Together, they took aim at Idaho sens. Jim Risch and Mike Crapo, both of whom United Vision for Idaho Executive Director Adrienne Evans said have the sway to keep federal money flowing to constituents who are struggling to make ends meet during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"People need to put the pressure on," she said.
From payroll protection to direct payments, Idahoans and others around the country have received hundreds of billions of dollars in federal aid, but when one of those stimulus measures, a $600-per-week unemployment benefit, runs out at the end of July, millions of Americans could be left in the lurch, facing hard choices about healthcare, their homes and other necessities.
Currently, more than a dozen bills to remedy that situation and others are floating through the halls of Congress, but it's unlikely that an additional package will pass soon. Crapo, the chair of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, is in a particularly influential position to accelerate the process, but as yet, neither he nor Risch have indicated support to any of the measures before them.
That's why Evans and UVI called for a "people's bailout," which would include rent and eviction relief, direct payments to the public, expanded unemployment insurance, the cancellation of student debt, funding for green jobs and guaranteed healthcare through the COVID-19 pandemic.
"It's basically the relief package that we've already gotten," Evans said. "Really, we want Medicare for all."
For that push, UVI has joined 40 People's Action organizations around the country, advocating a more proactive approach to the pandemic that reaches America's rural communities, where they say white supremacist agitation has taken root, contributing to the rightward sway of state legislatures, Congress and the presidency—and empowering right-leaning figures abroad.
"Beyond the direct impact of their local organizing, UVI’s actions serve as inspirations for local organizing all over the country," wrote People's Action Deputy Director Bree Carlson in a statement to Boise Weekly. "When folks in rural Idaho stand up and say 'Black Lives Matter,' for instance, and call for the resignation of white supremacists in the Idaho state legislature, they give people courage to take similar action in their home communities. They’re placing Idaho in the center of the movement for progressive change."
Carlson pointed to Evans' advocacy for the removal from office of Idaho Lieutenant Gov. Janice McGeachin, who in 2019, appeared in a Facebook post flashing what many interpreted as a white supremacist hand gesture with members of the armed patriot movement group III% of Idaho. McGeachin has since attracted controversy for her vocal opposition to Gov. Brad Little's Stay Home order and his decision to shutter of the Idaho economy in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Evans said it's all part of a strategy to bring progressive messaging to Idaho's small communities, where she said the political left has ceded the field to the politics of mistrust and division, and the government has done little to improve the lives of the people there.
"Rural America has been abandoned," she said.