At our conference on the many futures of work, Darrick Hamilton and Sandy Darity shared the idea of true, federally guaranteed employment. The Institute for Work and the Economy proposed a more limited version of this idea as a response to the Hurricane Katrina disaster.
In my prior post, I speculated that the the consequences of the COVID 19 outbreak is that the effects will be upside down from the financial market recession. This time around, low income workers in the non-tradable sector (hospitality, personal services, etc.) will take the biggest hit and that these sectors will be the last to show any recovery.
While a short term bridge of direct cash payments such as the one being proposed may be needed immediately, it is important that people find work earning livable wages and health benefits as the economy resets - hopefully at a level that is better than before. Following our Katrina idea, workers should receive education and training support leading to marketable credentials as they perform needed work. This can be tied to infrastructure initiatives, to the expansion of important services supporting the transition to renewable and non-fossil fuel dependent energy, entrepreneurship and the development of entrepreneurial ecosystems, etc. By paying livable wages, such guaranteed employment establishes an income floor on which what emerges must stand.
Peter Creticos is President and Executive Director of the Institute for Work and the Economy.