Unemployment Insurance, Domestic Extremists, Housing Insecurity: RAND Weekly Recap

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February 5, 2021

We discuss how the pandemic is changing the way we think about unemployment insurance; why it will be harder to stop domestic extremists than homegrown jihadists; the relationship between housing insecurity and sleep; concerns over audio-only telehealth visits; Alexei Navalny and protests in Russia; and behavioral health disparities in the U.S. military.

Rose Carter, of Lexington, waits in a line outside a temporary unemployment office established by the Kentucky Labor Cabinet at the State Capitol Annex in Frankfort, Kentucky, June 17, 2020, photo by Bryan Woolston/Reuters

Photo by Bryan Woolston/Reuters

The Pandemic Is Changing How We Treat Unemployment

Discussions about sending stimulus checks to Americans are important. But according to RAND's Kathryn Edwards, these conversations have overshadowed the true policy innovation of the COVID-19 recession: the bold federal intervention in the state-based unemployment insurance program. As Congress considers yet another relief package, it's worth reflecting on what 2020 taught us about the U.S. unemployment system.

First, millions of Americans now have a fresh understanding of the need for robust unemployment insurance. There's also new evidence to suggest that cash benefits don't disincentivize work; in general, people want to be employed. And finally, the economic fallout from the pandemic provided even more proof that state programs alone are insufficient.

What does all this add up to for unemployment insurance? “Little reason to keep the program as is,” Edwards says.

Supporters of Donald Trump scale a wall as they storm the U.S. Capitol, in Washington, DC, January 6, 2021, photo by Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

Trump supporters scale a wall during the attack on the U.S. Capitol, January 6, 2021

Photo by Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

Domestic Extremists Will Be Harder to Stop Than Jihadists

The Biden administration's plan to combat domestic extremism will use many of the same tactics as post-9/11 efforts to thwart attacks by homegrown jihadists. But there are many reasons why shutting down today's domestic extremists will be more difficult. That's according to RAND's Brian Michael Jenkins, who testified about the U.S. Capitol attack before the House Committee on Homeland Security this morning. Right-wing extremists are better armed, and many have had military or police training. And unlike jihadist ideology, their dangerous beliefs are deeply rooted in American history and society.

Distressed man having difficulties with paying utility bills and rent, photo by JackF/Getty Images

Photo by JackF/Getty Images

Trouble Paying Rent May Mean Trouble Sleeping

People who are unable to make their rent or mortgage payments slept on average 22 fewer minutes a night than their peers who aren't experiencing such problems. That's according to a new RAND study, the first to demonstrate that housing insecurity represents a distinct impediment to healthy sleep duration and quality. Understanding the health effects of housing insecurity is especially important during the pandemic, as millions of Americans struggle to pay their bills.

Mother calling doctor about her baby's fever, photo by SDI Productions/Getty Images

Photo by SDI Productions/Getty Images

Audio-Only Doctor Visits Raise Concerns

The use of telehealth has surged during the pandemic, allowing many clinics that serve lower-income Americans to continue providing care. But most of these telehealth appointments have been audio-only, a new RAND study finds. There are concerns about the quality of such visits. There's also a looming equity concern: If insurers stop reimbursing for audio-only visits once COVID-19 has passed, it could threaten clinics' ability to meet the needs of underserved populations.

National guard block the street during a protest against the detention of the opposition leader Alexei Navalny in St. Petersburg, Russia, January 31, 2021, photo by Sergei Mikhailichenko/SOPA/Reuters

Members of the Russian National Guard block the street during a protest against Navalny's detention, St. Petersburg, Russia, January 31, 2021

Photo by Sergei Mikhailichenko/SOPA/Reuters

Is Navalny a Threat to the Kremlin?

This week, a Moscow court sentenced Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny to more than two years in prison. RAND experts say that this may only galvanize Navalny's supporters, who have been turning out by the tens of thousands to protest his arrest. And even though Navalny may not pose a near-term threat to Putin's rule, he still has time to “play a historic role in Russia's political fate.”

U.S. Army specialist in a door-to-door exercise at the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, California, June 20, 2014, photo by Spc. Charles Probst/U.S. Army

A U.S. Army specialist takes part in a training exercise at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, California, June 20, 2014

Photo by Spc. Charles Probst/U.S. Army

The Behavioral Health of Minority Service Members

Do the behavioral health disparities that exist in the civilian population also exist in the U.S. military? A new RAND report helps answer this question. The findings reveal that there are disparities among service members, too, but they can differ from those in the civilian world in some key ways. For instance, Hispanic and non-Hispanic Black service members have higher rates of suicide attempts than their white peers, but the opposite is true among civilians.

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