France: YOU'RE FIRED! Wait, No, NOBODY'S Fired, Everyone Keeps Their Jobs, Hooray!
In an address on Monday, French President Emmanuel Macron announced that the whole country would be going on a 15-day lockdown to stop the spread of coronavirus — that no one is to go out for any reason other than for essentials, like food. The military has been deployed to take the sick to hospitals and also to set up additional hospitals in hard-hit areas.
The country, Macron said, is at war with coronavirus.
While this sounds a little bit scary, the French have little to fear, as Macron has also put several temporary policies into place to ensure that they will be safe not only physically but also financially. In fact, small businesses and companies will not have to pay for rent or utilities until the whole thing is over.
But in addition to his stern warning to stay inside, Mr. Macron also promised support for the French economy and French wage-earners, saying utility bills and rent would be "suspended" for struggling small businesses. So would his vaunted economic reforms. And he promised: "No business will be allowed to fail.''
In addition to these reforms meant to help small businesses, Macron has also declared that not only can no one be fired or laid off during this time, but that workers will be able to file for partial unemployment benefits for jobs they plan to go back to once this is over. Not having to pay rent will help small businesses to continue paying their employees.
Macron is also, unlike certain states we could name, postponing local elections until it is safe for people to congregate like that. (LOOK, I want people to vote, but I don't want them to get sick! Especially people in Illinois, where I live.)
While Macron has traditionally favored neoliberal economic policies, it seems he realizes that those policies are not particularly helpful during a pandemic, and that people do require some assurance that if they make it out of this thing alive, they won't find themselves totally screwed otherwise.
Italy, too, is investing billions into protecting its economy and its workers.
Italy, Europe's hardest hit country, on Monday adopted emergency economic measures worth 25 billion euros, or about $28 billion, to help protect the economy, as the number of cases jumped by 2,470 to 27,980 and deaths increased by 349, to 2,158.
In announcing the measures, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said that no Italian "should feel abandoned" during this crisis, and that the measures "were concrete evidence of the presence of the state."
And they're even putting in measures to help freelancers and the self-employed!
Funds were being made available to postpone mortgage, loan and tax payments, and to help economic sectors hardest hit by the outbreak. Professionals, the self-employed and freelancers would receive financial support, "to safeguard the period of inactivity," said Labor Minister Nunzia Catalfo, and quarantining will qualify as sick leave.
(Interesting note: Italy is actually really big on freelancers, just in general. Like, if you are a freelancer they will let you get a long-term self-employment VISA and just live there if you want. I looked into it a while back because I have dual citizenship but wouldn't want to move there by myself. Now is probably not a great time for that, though!)
Meanwhile, all of my social media feeds are filled with people losing their jobs and scared of losing their small businesses. Meanwhile, the United States is planning to bail out airlines, hotels, casinos and the cruise industry.
Now, there's nothing wrong with helping out workers in the leisure industry, and even those companies themselves, but targeting them for assistance when it's pretty much everybody that needs assistance right now is ... frustrating. Especially when the president happens to have been personally involved in that industry, and, you know, still is.
The Democrats in Congress are certainly doing their best, and even Mitt RomneyMitt Romney went so far as to suggest implementing a UBI (or maybe just a one-time stimulus, it's complicated okay?), but if we want everyone to come out of this as unscathed as humanly possible, we're gonna have to go to war with coronavirus, too.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse