Columns

Blaine's Bulletin: Unemployment

Washington, June 5, 2020

With unemployment numbers hitting Great Depression levels, our nation is seeing the effects of the COVID-19 crisis take different forms. A recent study found that for every $17 million Americans lose in collective income, we lose an American life. That translates to 65,000 American lives lost each month due to the economic shutdown. These numbers are absolutely terrifying. It is critical to the health and safety of Americans that we get our economy back up and running to allow people to get back to work to support their families. 

Pundits on TV obsessively look at ever-changing models that attempt to predict the future. Yet, the facts of history – the information we know is true – goes largely ignored. Scientists have found over and over again that unemployment is a health risk. Unemployment can lead directly to things like substance abuse and depression, putting people’s mental health in serious jeopardy. A study performed by the University of Zurich found that 1 in 5 suicides are related to unemployment. That same study showed that in 2009 suicide rates jumped 12% due to the economic crash of 2008. This is not a model that will change tomorrow.  It is a tragic, real life example of the devastating toll unemployment takes on human life. 

My point in writing this is not to suggest lives lost due to unemployment are more important than lives lost to the virus. It’s just the opposite. The threat to human life, regardless of the cause, must be addressed with the utmost urgency. We can’t be singularly focused on the threat of the coronavirus at the expense of citizens who are more susceptible to other threats. The fact of the matter is, in many parts of our state and the country, massive unemployment is a bigger threat to human life than the virus itself, and that must be considered in our decisions.

There are several different agencies who can help with unemployment, mental health, and support for families. For anyone who needs help with unemployment, the Missouri Department of Labor can be reached at 800-320-2519 or on their website at labor.mo.gov. Here you can find several different resources for filing claims, figuring out your eligibility and connecting with professionals who can help. 

For anyone who needs mental health services, the Federal Disaster Distress helpline, a toll-free crisis hotline, can be reached at 800-985-5990 or you can text “TALKWITHUS” to 66746. The Missouri Department of Mental Health website at dmh.mo.gov is also a great place to find more information and helpful resources. And United Way’s 2-1-1 number is useful for help with things like childcare, food pantries and utilities. 

For Missouri veterans and their families who are seeking confidential mental health assistance, the Veterans’ Crisis Line can be reached by calling 1-800-273-8255 and pressing “1.” The Missouri Department of Mental Health also has a page with resources specifically for veterans which can be found at dmh.mo.gov/veterans.

Hardworking Missouri families have the right to be able to earn a paycheck, pay rent and utility bills and put food on the table. Able employees want to get back to work and businesses want to get back to serving their customers. At the same time, we must continue to be vigilant with our health. Those with health issues should exercise caution and we need to look out for our family members and neighbors who are susceptible to the virus. But for the healthy population, it is time to get our economy going again. It’s possible that the economic fallout from the COVID-19 crisis could end up costing our nation more lives that the virus itself, and we can’t let that happen.