Coronavirus crisis payment proposal (generic)

The following is a generic proposal for an emergency upfront, unconditional, universal payment to all residents of a country dealing with the economic fallout of a shutdown/lockdown approach to managing coronavirus. Please feel free to adapt and use it as desired. No attribution required.

While payments targeted to businesses and workers who have lost their jobs assist those most obviously affected by shutdowns, they are failing to do what’s necessary to get [country] through the current health crisis. We now need a broad-ranging, upfront payment to all [country] residents of $#### a fortnight for the duration of the health crisis.

Our current social distancing approach to managing COVID-19 necessarily interrupts many of our usual economic activities. As a consequence, businesses are being shut down, jobs are being lost, and people are without incomes. In short, this pandemic has us in an emergency situation. At this stage, while COVID-19 is new and scientists are still working on developing a vaccine, we don’t know how long the emergency will last, or the details of how it’s going to play out. To get through this emergency and keep deaths to a minimum, we need people to pull together and behave in ways that reduce transmission of the virus, following government guidelines about what to do to stay safe and keep our community safe.

We propose that to get through this emergency with minimal damage and emerge from it strongly, [country] needs to immediately distribute an upfront, unconditional payment of at least $#### a fortnight to all [country] residents. Specifically, starting now, these payments should be distributed to all resident holders of [country tax ID], based on current information in the [country] tax system. Any resident who doesn’t have a [tax ID] would receive payment via the [tax ID] holder upon whom they are dependent. People get the $#### a fortnight regardless of other income, assets, or transfers.

Because it is universal, in the sense that every [country] resident is automatically eligible to receive it, this payment will support everyone both practically and emotionally. It communicates that everyone is valued and has an important role to play in doing what’s needed to reduce transmission, look out for others, and engage in other pro-social behaviours. People who feel pride in their roles as responsible members of the community are more likely to sustain their efforts.

The universal nature of the payment will also reduce polarisation in our community. At the moment, there are perceived winners and losers in government payments, and comparisons are rife in the community, distracting everyone from what we need to do to deal with the situation. Further, those who feel left behind may find it hard to see why they should make any sacrifices on behalf of others. In this respect, an equal payment to all [country] residents is much more powerful than targeted assistance (e.g. [business support initiative name] and [job search welfare support initiative name]) because everyone has an equal entitlement to the same payment.

Payments made upfront and unconditionally also get money moving quickly, using existing infrastructure and requiring low administrative effort. People can pay for necessities now, not when overburdened government agencies can catch up with a tsunami of demand. As a flow-on effect, businesses will retain more paying customers, keeping them afloat, saving jobs, and increasing their prospects of remaining viable into the future. It is also important to note that people are less likely to be exposed to the virus when they don’t have to go out in public to get their entitlement. This slows community transmission, resulting in a shorter shut down period, and therefore a faster overall recovery.

The payment will also go a long way towards increasing trust and belief in the government’s intentions and capability. At present, the divide between what government says is going to happen for people and what’s actually happening is significant – payments haven’t come through, people are being excluded, and many are confused. This can’t continue in times where belief in government’s intentions and capability is paramount. Government is leading us through this crisis, and people don’t follow a leader they don’t trust.

Another advantage is that people who aren’t fretting about money are freer to apply their skills where they are most needed, enabling [country’s] rapid and effective adaptation to changing circumstances. The payment would give people a sense of deep security that they are being looked after, so they can afford to spend their time volunteering, trying new work, and caring for others.

Some may argue that, rather than going to everyone, payments should continue to be targeted to support those who don’t have another source of income. It is important to note that this is not a proposal for a radical overhaul of [country’s] established social welfare system. The point we’re making is that targeting as a primary response is inappropriate in an emergency situation because targeted responses must be tailored to each target, requiring time to implement that is simply not available. Speed is critical in an emergency situation, and only a universal payment administered in the way we suggest can achieve it.

Obviously, the information currently in the [name tax system] will not perfectly reflect current circumstances for everybody. This is a minor issue. Adjustments can be made at any point without undermining the speed of implementation, and backdated as required. Some may feel that $#### a fortnight is too much. Again, we must note that this is an emergency payment. Costs of living during the crisis are very frequently higher than they were before (e.g. disrupted supply chains, additional delivery costs, purchase of non-standard goods and services). Even if $#### is more than strictly necessary, erring on the side of paying out a bit too much is better than not enough. Finally, an emergency payment can (of course) be stopped when no longer needed.

Another possible argument is that this shouldn’t happen because, despite being an emergency response, it may linger long past the duration of the crisis because people will be reluctant to give it up. This is a communication issue for the government, and yes, government does need to clearly communicate that this is an emergency response intended to provide everyone in [country] with a solid base of security in extremely uncertain times.

Finally, in response to the possible objection that this payment would create a future budget crisis, we note that it will be classed as taxable income, and more importantly, that it should serve to further stimulate the [country] economy, creating better foundations for future tax revenue.

An immediate upfront, unconditional payment of $#### for every [country] resident is the most effective and efficient approach to support [country] through the emergency and beyond. We hope the [country] government will introduce it as a matter of urgency.