Just after having our first pandemic Thanksgiving/Friendsgiving, it's highly possible you had a conversation with family or friends about the state of the country. You or someone in your group may be asking WTF do we have to look forward to on the economic horizon?
NPR reported two weeks ago that of the households in the U.S. making under $25K annually, 1 in 5 are late in rent, and 25% of the 1 in 5 are Black and Hispanic tenants. This pandemic is hitting minorities especially hard—not just with higher numbers of COVID infection, but in the pocketbook as well. The moratorium keeping landlords from evicting tenants expires Jan. 1, 2021, and given that Congress can't agree on a financial game plan for the country, we may see mass evictions and more of the homeless on the streets in the coldest month of the year.
Of the millions of unemployed people in this country, most of those without paychecks are in the service industry. That includes all levels of the hospitality industry—such as restaurant, bar and hotel workers; those employed in the tourist industry—ski resorts, travel and leisure companies; those who cater to tourists, including sex workers; and those who work for various nonprofits. They all have seen devastating layoffs and, if Congress doesn't act quickly, many will lose unemployment benefits as of Dec. 31, 2020.
In a recent interview on Marketplace, John C. Williams, CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, said, depending on how long COVID-19 stays, he thinks our economy won't rebound for three years. Right now, there is no PPE for small businesses or households to stimulate the economy, and no checks in the mail coming from the government. With Congress being unable to agree on relief plans, the "lame duck" president doesn't seem to have any magic tricks up his sleeves to get money to the people. President-elect Biden may face the same roadblocks to economic recovery if lawmakers can't agree in 2021.
Utah's service industry is in a weird place because, in many areas, we're actually seeing increased tourism in Utah this year. According to a report released this past September by U of U's Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute, Utah's tourism industry reached $10 billion in revenue for the first time in 2019, generating 141,500 total Utah jobs and $1.34 billion in state and local tax revenues. Our public officials were smart when COVID hit in that they invested $12 million of federal CARES Act funds to advertise Utah as a place to visit to people outside the state. It worked, because to get into Arches National Park this summer, many waited in a long line at the park's entrance beginning at 4 a.m.
We might not have had as many international travelers to our Big 5 as in the past, but the parks are packed. Sadly, though, many of the surrounding businesses near the parks are closed or operating under strict guidelines that limit day-to-day business.