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Montana view: We'll have a crisis after the crisis

Montana view: We'll have a crisis after the crisis

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It seems like the COVID-19 crisis is begetting another crisis.

For example, stories in The Billings Gazette tell of the oncoming domestic violence shelter surge. And then there's the deferral in rent and other expenses — deferral, yes, but not cancelling the bills.

Let's be clear: We're not advocating that everyone should be given a get-out-of-all debts wish. However, we realize that the slowdown in economy and the ripple effects of unemployment, coupled with being cooped up will have a consequence, and while not as severe in many cases as coronavirus restrictions, experts are already warning communities from Billings and beyond that there will be other waves of problems after the initial panic has subsided.

We understand that many people may have gotten a grace period for paying bills, utilities and even rent. However, we also know that those bills will come due, and we also know that the economy we encounter after all the quarantine, social distancing and sheltering-in-place may look a lot different. We hope that lawmakers and Congress consider ways to give even more relief.

As bills continue to pile up, citizens will have to decide whether to work and go out, or stay in. We need to make sure that folks can financially make the responsible decision to stay at home without the prospect of eventually losing everything.

Some may encounter an impossible scenario when they return to work because they were previously working paycheck to paycheck, and find themselves buried too deep.

We believe that leaders may have to think beyond the first shot of a recovery check. Some people will be forced to leave the house too early in order to try to find work, and be in situations where they not only risk their own personal health, but the health of the entire community.

We also have heard from professionals helping victims of domestic abuse and violence. We recognize that the stress of the situation and the challenging of being confined for days will lead to a likely uptick in domestic violence. That may not happen right now because of fear and panic will keep some victims in place. Yet, when it seems like a safehaven is more accessible, the shelters and organizations that provide support will undoubtedly see an increased demand.

Again, we must prepare for that in two ways. First, funding must be in place for emergency and temporary assistance if the shelter and assistance options already in place become overtaxed. This is a step that local, state and federal officials can already begin planning for.

Next, we urge anyone who has the means and has been lucky enough to keep a job to give to the organizations that will help folks with basic assistance like shelter and support.

We can also remember that during this tough time, there will be an increased need for food and basics as families scrimp and work to make ends meet. If you can donate food or supplies to organizations which can help, please do so. If you can't donate materials, donate money.

Most of all, if this coronavirus has taught us anything, it's that we are all connected and dependent on each other, whether we like it or not. So when the initial threat has passed and it once again becomes safe, please consider volunteering to any one of the organizations that will help resuscitate and rebuild a hurting and broken society.

The Billings Gazette


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