One of the most devastating effects of the novel coronavirus pandemic has been its debilitating impact on the economy and the vast changes made to the job market and wealth inequality.
The poor in the United States have grown significantly poorer, with tens of millions of Americans being plunged into unemployment, hunger, and an inability to pay rent. Small businesses deemed nonessential have been forced to shut down or trim operations to a bare minimum, and even major corporations have filed for bankruptcy protection and laid off swathes of their workforce. The effect this has had on low-income communities has been nothing short of ruinous.
In the meantime, attempts to alleviate the suffering of poor Americans have stalled, with federal support for unemployed Americans set to end just days after Christmas just as the United States faces a massive and renewed surge of infections, hospitalizations, and deaths.
Amid the crisis, Democrats have rallied behind the updated HEROES Act, a $2.2 trillion bill passed by the House in October, with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi championing the bill as an emergency funding measure that would keep community budgets afloat by injecting $700 billion into state, local and tribal governments.
And while the HEROES Act has been touted as allocating much-needed funds toward first responders and crucial community programs such as library services, public schools, and colleges, auditors at OpenTheBooks found that some $350 million in coronavirus “aid” would go toward the nation’s 50 richest communities listed in the Bloomberg 2020 Richest Places with Heroes Act coronavirus bailouts.
The watchdogs found that the average annual income in these areas ranged from $262,988 in Darnestown, MD, to $525,324 in Atherton, CA – rather astronomical sums for many Americans who are struggling to pay their electrical bills and fill their pantries with basic staple foods.
And while $350 million may seem like a paltry sum in the context of a $2.2 trillion bill, the discovery raises an important question – why should some of the poorest communities that have faced disproportionate impacts from the pandemic essentially subsidize the country’s wealthiest ZIP codes?
The discovery reveals that rather than being the progressive party that truly fights for the interests of the working poor and middle class, the Democrats may be just as beholden to their wealthy constituents as their Republican counterparts are.
Forbes published how much the top 10 wealthiest communities in the United States would receive through their HEROES Act bailouts:
#1. Atherton, CA (income: $525,324/ bailout: $3.8 million) – The exclusive Silicon Valley community has median home prices of $7.5 million and Atherton is home to tech billionaires and major professional athletes like Steph Curry of the Golden State Warriors, who has a $31 million home in the area. Whatsapp founder Jan Koum also purchased a “mega-compound” in Atherton for $57 million.
#2. Scarsdale, NY (income: $452,041/ bailout: $8.8 million) – Lying just 35 minutes from New York City by train, Scarsdale is the richest town on the East Coast with a median home sales price of $1.2 million. Stars who have bought homes in Scarsdale include Beyoncé and Jay-Z.
#3. Hillsborough, CA (income: $430,681/ bailout: $5.7 million) – Another exclusive Bay Area community, Hillsborough has a median home price of $5.4 million. Local notables include such decidedly un-poor residents like Elon Musk, Jenny Craig and Jimmy Kimmel.
#4. Cherry Hills Village, CO (income: $406,314/ bailout: $3.3 million) – Located 10 miles from Denver, Cherry Hills Village has a median home price of $2 million. Prominent community members include NFL superstars John Elway and Peyton Manning, while diplomatic heavyweights Madeline Albright and Condoleezza Rice graduated from the town’s private schools.
#5. Los Altos Hills, CA (income: $405,073/ bailout: $4.2 million) – Another Silicon Valley enclave, Los Altos Hills has a median home price of $3 million. Tech oligarchs living in the town include Google founder Sergey Brin and Israeli billionaire and tech capitalist Yuri Milner, who purchased a $100 million here.
#6. Short Hills, NJ (income: $388,760/ bailout: $6.5 million) – Considered a suburb of New York City suburb, the community is home to a number of wealthy CEOs, actors, pro sports players, and authors.
#7. Highland Park, TX (income: $365,025/ bailout: $4.5 million) – The richest town in the Lone Star State lies just five miles north of Dallas and has a median home price of $1.5 million. It’s located five miles north of Dallas. Notables include Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and former Texas Gov. Bill Clements.
#8. Glencoe, IL (income: $358,543/ bailout: $4.4 million) – Lying just north of Chicago along Lake Michigan, Glencoe is the richest town in Illinois. Local luminaries include Groupon founder Eric Lefkofsky and author Scott Turow.
#9. Winnetka, IL (income: $353,700/ bailout: $6.1 million) – This village neighboring Glencoe was the site where beloved Hollywood comedies of the ‘80s and ‘90s were filmed, including Home Alone, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Uncle Buck, National Lampoon Christmas, Risky Business, and Breakfast Club.
#10. Darien, CT (income: $352,839/ bailout: $10.7 million) – The posh East Coast town is home to a number of actors, politicians, and CEOs, and teems with at least nine country clubs.
Republicans have rightly been criticized for opposing aid for renters, student debtors, and the unemployed in favor of tax cuts for the ultra-rich and handing over taxpayer funds to transnational corporations. However, Democrats should also be held to account for their attempts to hand over taxpayer funds to those who clearly need it the least during the present crisis.
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