The COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States with full force in the beginning of March. Now, in mid-September, many countries have re-opened their societies and economies, while the United States has failed to control the virus and millions of Americans have lost their jobs.

While the unemployment rate in Tennessee has decreased from 15.5% to 9.5%, there are still thousands of Tennesseans reeling from the impacts of COVID-19. Since the start of the pandemic, Tennessee has seen over 829,855 jobless claims. In the seven counties in TN-02, the unemployment rate currently stands at 7.2%.

The COVID-19 pandemic is far from over. Many businesses across TN-02 have reopened with strict guidelines from the CDC in order to keep their doors open. On the other side, however, some businesses owners did not have the resources or assistance to make it through.

In Blount County, RJ’s Courtyard Restaurant was forced to close their businesses because of the Stay at Home Order in April, despite being a staple of their community for 30+ years.

In Knox County, Babalu, a once popular spot on Gay Street for fresh guacamole, had to make the difficult decision to shut down their downtown location and lay off workers at 12 other locations in the U.S.

On July 31st, the CARES Act subsidy that was providing individuals on unemployment an extra $600 per week of aid, expired. Congress failed to pass legislation before then to extend the deadline, leaving millions of Americans without the financial assistance they need to make ends meet.

Both Democrats and Republicans have had months to negotiate another relief package. The House of Representatives passed the HEROES Act back in May, a $3.4 trillion plan that would guarantee a second stimulus check and expand unemployment benefits. However, the Senate countered with a significantly smaller, $500 billion package and failed to advance it.

To avoid a government shutdown at the end of the month and assist the millions of Americans who have lost their jobs due to COVID-19, Congress needs to act immediately to reach a bipartisan solution.

We need to ensure that federal assistance is ongoing for as long as the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are present in our communities. Both Democrats and Republicans in Congress must stop playing with the fate of many Americans lives and livelihoods and enact a comprehensive relief package today.