While the number of first-order victims from the coronavirus continues to rise — 5.6 million total cases and 176,000 deaths as of Monday, according to the CDC — the collateral damage has been just as much, or even more, devastating.
Trillions of dollars of wealth from the previously booming stock market have been erased, millions have been put out of work, and trillions have been added to our completely unsustainable national debt in relief packages.
The pandemic shutdown has also presaged a rise in depression, divorce, domestic abuse, child abuse, alcoholism, drug abuse, and even suicide.
The most startling data point that has come out recently is that 25 percent of young adults have considered suicide because of the virus.
Is it only a matter of time before thought leads to action, and suicide among young adults — our future — is collateral damage that no society can abide?
For this reason, Senate agriculture committee Chair Pat Roberts, R-Kan., lead the charge to protect kids from becoming victims of the virus, even those not infected by the disease.
Roberts and 19 other Republican Senators sent a letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue urging the Trump administration provide waivers to continue the school-lunch program during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The delivery system for these lunches has been disrupted in states where schools have been shut down, so intervention is necessary to keep serving this at-risk population.
The federal National School Lunch Program (NSLP) has reimbursed schools for free or reduced-price meals to needy children since 1946 — up to nearly 100,000 K-12 schools and 30 million children in recent years.
For many, these meals are the only regular ones they receive.
As state governors ordered schools to shut down starting in March, the USDA and Congress opened the door for schools to continue providing meals through the agency’s flexible summer programs.
This morning the U.S. Department of Agriculture agreed to the idea, and extended the waivers to Dec. 31.
Their press release reads:
"This unprecedented move will help ensure — no matter what the situation is on-the-ground — children have access to nutritious food as the country recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic. USDA has been and continues to be committed to using the Congressionally appropriated funding that has been made available."
The government has been quick to provide financial aid to small businesses, the U.S. Postal Service, and other corona-impacted groups and individuals, and this is a sign they won’t leave behind children either.
Moreover, the move will also help struggling economies in affected states going into the fall elections. While certainly not as important as children’s lives, the political ramifications are not insignificant: if Republicans had been on wrong side of issue, it could have tipped control of the Senate in their favor, particularly in more rural states that rely on agriculture like Iowa, Colorado, Montana, North Carolina, and Maine.
Big businesses are getting bailed out with PPP money — including the LA Lakers, the Cobra Kai of the NBA — and the U.S. Postal Service is drooling over a $25 billion bailout.
Even if staunch ideological fiscal conservatives support government cost-cutting to find savings, cuts to the school lunch program would not be the place to start.
While it’s good news that USDA has extended the program through the end of the calendar year, it would probably be a good idea to do so through the rest of the school year as well — given the uncertainty with which corona has left the world.
Children rely on these programs for meals during the school year, and it’s not the fault that politicians in their states have shut down the schools, so the federal government has done the right thing in stepping up.
At-risk kids’ nourishment shouldn’t become yet another public health problem created by the coronavirus overreaction.
Jared Whitley is a long-time politico who has worked in the U.S. Congress, White House, and defense industry. He is an award-winning writer, having won best blogger in the state from the Utah Society of Professional Journalists (2018) and best columnist from Best of the West (2016). He earned his MBA from Hult International Business School in Dubai. Read Jared Whitley's reports — More Here.
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