Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Calls For ‘Emergency UBI’ In Face Of Coronavirus Concerns

The former bartender points out that service-industry workers are taking a hit from the lack of business brought about by coronavirus.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez addresses supporters during a campaign rally
Brittany Greeson / Getty Images

The former bartender points out that service-industry workers are taking a hit from the lack of business brought about by coronavirus.

Freshman New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has called for “emergency UBI” — Universal Basic Income — as the economic effects of coronavirus are devastating the service industry.

UBI is effectively a guarantee from the government that no one will be without a certain amount of income. It takes many forms, such as a monthly check (or more likely, a monthly bank transfer) of some amount of money.

Ocasio-Cortez tweeted Saturday that the spread of the coronavirus, and in particular its effects on people in the service industry, has brought about a need to implement the scheme on an emergency basis.

“The need for social distancing from restaurants only underscores the need for relief for tipped workers, freelancers, shift workers, etc. Tax credits & unemployment insurance does not help many of these workers – that’s a huge segment of our economy. We need emergency UBI, now,” she tweeted.

The spread of coronavirus has decimated certain industries, not the least of which is the hospitality industry. As Barron’s reports, the “social isolation” that Ocasio-Cortez refers to in her tweet means, among other things, that people are avoiding bars and restaurants. Workers in those industries are suffering, as fewer customers means fewer tips and fewer working hours.

Ocasio-Cortez herself was, at one point in her life. a bartender.

a bartender pours a beer
  StockSnap / Pixabay

Other workers, inside and outside the hospitality industry, are feeling the pinch, too. Cruise lines, theme parks, movie theaters, sports, and other industries have completely suspended their operations until further notice, putting untold numbers of housekeepers, concession workers, groundskeepers, and other individuals out of work or, at the very least, at reduced working hours.

Ocasio-Cortez’s tweet doesn’t specify what she means by “emergency UBI,” and the specifics, such as how much money, who will qualify for it, and how long it will last, are unclear, as of this writing.

Meanwhile, the federal government is taking some steps to provide relief to Americans who have been affected by coronavirus-related economic hardships.

As NBC News reports, on Saturday, the House of Representatives passed a coronavirus aid bill that, without including emergency UBI as Ocasio-Cortez calls for, is intended to help Americans. Among other provisions, it includes paid emergency leave for sickened workers, and free testing.

“We are proud to have reached an agreement with the Administration to resolve outstanding challenges, and now will soon pass the Families First Coronavirus Response Act,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, via a companion NBC News report.

President Trump has promised to sign the bill, which now goes to the Senate.