Here’s all the things Trump’s $1,200 one-off unemployment payment is nowhere near enough to cover

Moya Lothian-McLean@moya_lm
Thursday 26 March 2020 16:30
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(iStock/Getty)

Donald Trump is very worried about the US economy in the wake of coronavirus.

Which is why the US Senate has just passed a historic piece of disaster legislation.

It promises $2trillion worth of aid to Americans.

A lot of that amount has been allocated to funds for businesses or loan companies.

Like the $500bn put aside for organisations that loan money to sectors like the airline industry, which has been heavily impacted. Or $350bn earmarked for small businesses.

But when it comes to direct benefits for the “record high” number of Americans who’ve filed for unemployment since the coronavirus crisis hit, things are little different.

According to the terms of the bill, they are entitled to a one-time, direct payment in the amount of $1,200.

If they have children, they get an additional $500 per child.

So a couple living together in New York would get $2,400.

Or a family of four (two parents, two children) living in Arkansas would receive $3,400.

This is supposed to cover what is predicted to be at least two months of disruption… but that seems like a very generous estimate.

Of course, people have taken to social media to express their concern that this payment plan is going to fall short.

And to give a clearer idea, here’s a few things that this payment couldn’t even begin to cover.

1. A one-bedroom apartment in the three most populated cities in America

A renter in New York, Los Angeles or Chicago? Tough luck. A studio apartment in the Big Apple averages at $2,595 a month, whereas in L.A it’s $2,527, according to listing service Rent Cafe. If you’re heading to the Windy City, expect to pay around $1,948 (£1624). So even the cheapest monthly rent is still $748 more than the one-time payment meant to cover it for several months. Make it make sense.

2. What it'll cost to get treated for coronavirus, even if you're insured

While testing for coronavirus is now free, the treatment is very much not. One recent horror story saw an uninsured woman in the US who contracted the disease stuck with a bill of $34,927.43. Her lack of insurance means she’s now expected to pay it all back.

The Kaiser Family Foundation has helpfully calculated the costs of treatment for coronavirus in several different scenarios and every one of them is...pricey.

If someone is hospitalised, without complications, they could be looking at a bill of roughly $9,763.

If there are complications, that figure skyrockets to an average of around $20,292 (£16921).

Providing the patient has employer insurance, they may only have to pay some of it – but the KFF still estimates the minimum out-of-pocket amount (the “deductible”) they would have to cough up as being $1,396.

The KFF have also warned it’s much likely to be higher, given the variation between insurance plans and unpredictable costs given the unprecedented situation.

3. Three months' wifi and phone bills for two people

In self-isolation or quarantine, you’re going to be using the web a lot and making calls to keep in touch with your friends and family. So let’s examine how much three months' worth of wifi and phone calls would cost a couple.

The US’s two most popular internet providers are AT&T and Xfinity. For AT&T, monthly internet plans start from $39.99. Xfinity’s begin at $19.99, but entering a NY address brings up a quote of $49.99 a month for the cheapest package available. To make things simple, we’ll add a separate mobile package, with the biggest mobile network carrier Verizon Wireless. There’s a deal for two phones on their basic Unlimited plan to get uncapped calls, texts and data for $60 a month ($30 each).

So, for a couple on AT&T and Verizon for three months in lockdown, that’s around $299.97.

If they’re on Xfinity and Verizon it’s more like $329.97.

Trump’s cheque CAN cover this but… there’s only around $870 left over afterwards for everything else. So while it’s doable, it’s not affordable or sustainable.

4. A month's groceries for a family of three

Grocery prices vastly depend on where a family lives. Analysis by Business Insider of household (defined as between one and three individuals) spending across the US found monthly outgoings on groceries ranged from $314 (£261) in Atlanta to $516 in Seattle.

So, the very best case scenario here is you spend $942 of your one-time payment on groceries, leaving you with $258 to cover everything else.

The worst case is you’re almost completely out of the money after two months of grocery shopping. Cool.

5. Mortgage repayments

Although nearly per cent of homes the US have had their mortgage paid off, many millions still haven’t. And with the average monthly mortgage payment being $1,100, the government cheque won’t get close to even covering two months of that debt.

Now, say you're an Airbnb host with multiple mortgages... Then you're really in trouble.

6. Household bills and health insurance

Say you’re a family. According to rental service Apartment List, the average cost of monthly utility bills for US households is $240. Add to that the monthly cost of $833 for unsubsidised health insurance. Look at that – the Trump payment has vanished into thin air.

The message is clear: $1,200 is just not enough.

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