At the outset of the coronavirus outbreak, a certain meme was being circulated on social media that had a simple but pretty powerful message. It said, with some variation, “Your grandparents were called to war. You’re being called to sit on your couch. You can do this.” Knowing that the virus strikes older people more severely, younger generations were being urged to stay home and stop the spread of COVID-19 for the sake of older generations who’ve made sacrifices on their behalves.
Since the day school closures were announced, educators and school staff have gone above and beyond to make sure local students were engaged, learning and missed. Likewise, local agencies, libraries and others have assembled or quickly created all kinds of learning materials for kids to access and use from home. Parents and schools are doing what they can to honor graduating high school seniors who’ve had their normal ceremonies and celebrations postponed.
It’s been heartening to see the way our communities have supported both the young and old during this pandemic. Going forward let’s hope that those groups, often the ones with the “smallest” voices in society, don’t get overlooked as our state and nation work towards beating the virus and rebuilding our economies. When it comes to budget cuts during a recession, so many of the services these groups rely on are the first areas to see cuts—education, workforce development, public health and early childhood programs.
According to the Michigan League for Public Policy, it’s likely that Michigan will lose at least $2 billion in revenues over the next year and a half and, because the state must balance its budget every year, deep cuts will be necessary in the near term. Experts warn that the fiscal crisis we’re entering could be harsher than the Great Recession we just emerged from.
Let’s hope that important lessons were learned from our last downturn and we can minimize the impact that fewer funds will have on our most vulnerable populations so we can recover physically and fiscally as one equal community.