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Reopenining Schools, Affordable Housing, Unemployment: RAND Weekly Recap

July 24, 2020

This week, we discuss insights from RAND researchers on reopening schools; how the decline in commercial real estate could help address the housing crisis; challenges facing the U.S. unemployment system; helping post-9/11 veterans receive treatment for substance use and behavioral health disorders; the debate over Confederate statues in the United States; and South Korea's push for inter-Korean cooperation.

Children stand on smiley faces to maintain social distancing in the courtyard of a school in Paris, France, May 14, 2020, photo by Benoit Tessier/Reuters

Children stand on smiley faces to maintain social distancing in the courtyard of a school in Paris, France, May 14, 2020

Photo by Benoit Tessier/Reuters

How to Reopen Schools: Q&A with RAND Experts

The debate over reopening schools is getting more heated by the day. A teachers' union has sued Florida's governor and education commissioner over an emergency order on reopening schools. And in Iowa, teachers are writing their own obituaries and sending them to the governor in protest of that state's plan.

We asked a group of RAND researchers to weigh in on some of the biggest concerns and considerations around this issue. They discussed different approaches for reopening, how online learning went in the spring, ways to help disadvantaged students, and more.

A construction worker on a building site in downtown Los Angeles, California, March 10, 2015, photo  by Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

A construction worker on a building site in downtown Los Angeles, California, March 10, 2015

Photo by Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

Decline in Commercial Real Estate Could Help Address the Housing Crisis

COVID-19 has led to business closures, greater delinquency on securities backed by commercial mortgages, and millions of Americans working from home. All of this suggests a major decline in demand for commercial real estate. This could be regarded as yet another negative economic effect of the pandemic. But it may also present an opportunity, says RAND's Jason Ward. Transforming some commercial properties into residences could help meet the urgent need for affordable housing.

People line up outside a career center, hoping to find assistance with their unemployment claims, Frankfort, Kentucky, June 18, 2020, photo by Bryan Woolston/Reuters

People line up outside a Kentucky Career Center hoping to find assistance with their unemployment claims, Frankfort, Kentucky, June 18, 2020

Photo by Bryan Woolston/Reuters

Is the U.S. Stuck with an Unemployment Add-On?

In the CARES Act, Congress increased unemployment benefits by $600 a week. But that bonus is set to expire at the end of the month—and tens of millions of Americans are still out of work. Some workers have been receiving unemployment checks that are bigger than their previous paychecks. That appears to be a sticking point as Congress debates what to do next. Capping benefits is unlikely to be a viable solution, says RAND's Kathryn Edwards. And even if it's achievable, it's probably not politically palatable. That's why this issue may persist until the U.S. unemployment system is reformed.

Veterans talk in a group therapy session, photo by SDI Productions/Getty Images

Photo by SDI Productions/Getty Images

Post-9/11 Veterans Need Integrated Behavioral Health Treatment

Veterans who served after 9/11 are more likely than veterans of other eras to suffer from both substance use disorders and mental health disorders, such as PTSD or depression. But a new RAND report finds that many of these veterans don't get the help that they need. This may be because programs typically specialize in treating one type of disorder or the other. Fortunately, there are ways to increase evidence-based treatment that addresses both problems at the same time—and make programs more accessible and appealing to veterans.

People watch as crews take down the statue to Confederate general Stonewall Jackson in Richmond, Virginia, July 1, 2020, photo by Julia Rendleman/Reuters

People watch as crews take down the statue to Confederate general Stonewall Jackson in Richmond, Virginia, July 1, 2020

Photo by Julia Rendleman/Reuters

Confederate Statues Symbolize Racism in America

Many Confederate statues were unveiled in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Just like Jim Crow laws and segregation, these monuments were meant to reinforce the inferior social status of Black Americans. It's time to take that symbolism seriously, says RAND's Thomas Szayna. After all, the legacy of the Confederacy's pro-slavery cause remains today. Retaining monuments of men who fought for oppression is divisive and impedes progress in race relations, he says.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in arrives for a Memorial Day ceremony at the national cemetery in Daejeon, South Korea, June 6, 2020, photo by Lee Jin-man/Pool via Reuters

South Korean President Moon Jae-in arrives for a Memorial Day ceremony at the national cemetery in Daejeon, South Korea, June 6, 2020

Photo by Lee Jin-man/Pool via Reuters

South Korea's Push for Peace

Despite North Korea's provocative demolition of the inter-Korean liaison office last month, South Korean President Moon Jae-in appears undeterred in his pursuit of reconciliation on the peninsula. That's according to RAND's Soo Kim. But Pyongyang hasn't welcomed Seoul's approach. And Moon's efforts have “been at odds with Washington's goals of a complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization of North Korea,” says Kim.

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