I’ve read a lot about social media threatening our democracy by providing platforms for conspiracy theories and major untruths. People cling to a space that supports their prejudices and are manipulated by professionals—often working from foreign countries—that are paid to create distrust and division in the U.S.
Yet, I find Facebook—the only social media I indulge in—actually enhances my role as an informed citizen.
For instance, when a friend posted that millions of Americans had lost health insurance along with their jobs, I replied that insurance companies are required to allow workers to continue their plans for up to 18 months after leaving employment.
Immediately, others with relevant experiences started posting. The extended insurance they’d been offered ranged from $1,900 for an individual to $2,900 for a family. One added a link to a Kaiser Foundation article saying that people who lose job-related insurance can apply on their state or federal ACA exchange, but many don’t know it—and the “special enrollment period” closes after 60 days.
For many, that was last week.
In another instance, a friend questioned why Gov. Little planned to cut K-12 school funding by $99 million next year when the economy seems to be booming. The feds are paying for the bulk of additional medical expenses. Idahoans have an extra $1,200 per adult and $500 per child to spend, and those on unemployment get an extra $600 a week. House prices are up. Grocery store shelves are emptying faster than ever and other businesses are adapting to taking digital orders. The sales tax from online sales may be double last years’.
I didn’t have an answer—but I had a new question: Was the economy hit as badly as the high unemployment would suggest?
So I took particular notice of an AP article in Saturday’s Idaho Press. Retail sales in March were 8.3% below February’s; and April’s sales fell an additional 16.4%. Clothing, appliance, electronics, and furniture stores suffered the worst losses. Some predict that many stores will close permanently.
That’s serious. With the 13-week extension included in coronavirus relief, Idahoans can collect unemployment for 34 weeks. Those laid off in mid-March will run out of benefits the week after the November election. If employers of even 15% of the 130,000 Idaho workers now collecting unemployment don’t reopen, that could mean a bleak Christmas for 20,000 Idahoans and their families.
A recent email U.S. Rep. Russ Fulcher sparked a third train of thought. One reason that Fulcher opposes a fourth coronavirus relief bill before the Senate is that illegal aliens would be eligible for Medicaid and impact payments ($1,200 for adults).
None of the summaries I’d read mentioned this—and Fulcher described the bill as 1,800+ pages—so when a cousin in California posted something similar, I asked him for a source.
Bill replied with a link to an article in the Western Journal, a major right-wing publication that was new to me. If HEROES became law, aliens working in jobs deemed essential would not be arrested under the Immigration and Nationality Act nor would their employers be prosecuted. Green cards for health workers would be ‘fast tracked,’ and visas for aliens here legally would be extended until 90 days after the pandemic was considered over.
Nothing about the payments Fulcher had mentioned, but an internet search found a Forbes article with the information I was seeking. Under HEROES, aliens with an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number could get impact payments.
I wonder if any of my Facebook friends know if workers with an ITIN are still considered undocumented?