Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, both Tennessee’s & the U.S. economy have been tested. Tennessee has seen over 622,644 jobless claims. The unemployment rate in Tennessee jumped in April to 15.2% — Tennessee’s highest recorded unemployment rate in history. In the seven counties in TN-02, the unemployment rate was 15.2%.

While we each hope the worst is behind us & to avoid further economic consequences, it has become clear that the COVID-19 pandemic isn’t over.

Cases in Tennessee have reached new highs. This week, numerous Knoxville restaurants shut down, due to concerns over a new spike of the Coronavirus. Multiple businesses in Knoxville have already shut down for good. Jerome Powell, the Chairman of the Federal Reserve, told Congress that many businesses have closed down permanently and many laid-off workers won’t be able to go back to their old jobs.

But much of the federal assistance that was created to help working people navigate this crisis is expiring — from expanded unemployment benefits to the first round of assistance for small businesses. With Tax Day approaching & bills piling up, many Americans aren’t sure how they can afford next month’s rent.

These expiring programs have worked — staving off many of the economic consequences we would have faced without quick action. In May, Americans personal income saw a huge increase.

While we each try to put the COVID-19 pandemic behind us, Congress must act to ensure that struggling families & business aren’t left behind. Both workers & employers need to be incentivized to make decisions that are smart for themselves, their communities, and the people they love – without fear of not being able to afford their rent.

We need to ensure that federal assistance is needed for the length of the economic crisis we face – not for an arbitrary deadline created by partisan politicians. Congress needs to extend the CARES Act today.