NO.econjusticerally.071920.020.jpg

Belden Batiste holds up two signs during the Rally for Economic Justice for All July 18 at New Orleans City Hall. With the looming expiration of $600 per week enhanced unemployment benefits, The General Assembly of New Orleans is asking that the enhanced payment be extended at least through the end of 2020, among other demands. The group's stated mission is to eradicate racism, economic exploitation, and poverty.

The Roman god Janus had two faces, looking in opposite directions, and one wonders if that should be the emblem — instead of the famous bull — on Wall Street and the other great stock exchanges of the world.

Never has the aptness of Janus been better shown than during the coronavirus pandemic, affecting not only the health of people but also the economics of nations across the globe.

On some days, the markets look back to the earnings results, when some companies exceeded expectations, however those are determined in such chaotic circumstances, and that happened Wednesday with big brands like Coca-Cola. On other days, the market looks ahead, so far ahead that it seems to be unrealistic, about potential vaccines or other developments.

We pray for the latter but can’t help but note that those are not just around the corner.

If the stock market lives on waves of news and expectation, the two faces of Janus, ordinary families in Louisiana and elsewhere are focused on the scary mask of their immediate prospects, joblessness.

The expiration of the CARES Act federal unemployment checks — the bill should have been called a relief measure, not “stimulus” — is a clear and present danger to the finances of families. While there are arguments over the next bill in Congress, some form of additional support for families is in order.

Should it be a $600 per week add-on as in the first bill? Many Republican members of Congress, particularly from low-wage states like Louisiana, call the federal premium a disincentive to work.

''We cannot continue this perverse incentive,'' said U.S. Rep. Garret Graves, R-Baton Rouge, echoing words from several other Louisiana Republicans in Washington. ''I bet you I've spoken to over 100 small businesses that have said they've been unable to get their employees back to work because they're making more money on unemployment.''

Have members of House and Senate talked to many families dependent on these checks, when they are — in the language of the unemployment laws — out of work “through no fault of their own.” In fact, they’re out of work because of government mandates to stay home.

If Louisiana’s meager $247 top rate of unemployment insurance is not enough to live on, will it sustain families who are unable to work as coronavirus rages in Louisiana?

Perhaps $600 was the wrong number the first time around. Graves and others say they're open to another amount or a different structure. Still, we need to relieve families' financial stresses. What families face here when they cannot work is frightening to them, and ought to be addressed by Congress.