Closing the Gap in America’s COVID19 Relief Policies with a Single Universal Program for All Americans

The Social Services, Technology, and Administrative Restructuring Initiative, better known as the “SSTAR Initiative”, presents a novel policy approach that would radically overhaul and improve upon America’s existing social safety net system. As the CARES Act is defunded and many Americans and small businesses continue to struggle to meet their basic economic needs, it is clear that new policies must be explored to see the country through the pandemic and beyond. Sara Abiola, PhD, JD, creator of the SSTAR Initiative and an assistant professor of health policy at Columbia University, believes that the proposed change “would accelerate the process of regaining health and financial stability on a national scale.”  

KEY FACTS 

HOW IT WORKS 

SSTAR funds are accessed through an individual’s StarCard, which would resemble a debit card with minor modifications. The StarCard could be loaded with government funds of any type and would have reduced administrative costs associated with delivering funds, made possible by using participating banks that would manage StarCard accounts. In order to minimize the risk of detracting from the health focus of the program, a StarCard holder would be unable to convert funds directly into cash that could be used to make illegal or illegitimate purchases, which also ensures that households can receive optimal financial planning assistance. The StarCard could not be used at liquor stores or recreational marijuana shops. The goal is to provide secure funding to support the American people through the nation’s unprecedented economic hardships and better prepare them for the future. 

The Initiative is unique in its accessibility to all Americans. According to Dr. Abiola, “Every person age 18 and over would be eligible for relief. The new system is designed to be inclusive of people at all income levels; long-term financial health and stability is the goal.” To elaborate, an individual’s age, family structure and history, and overall financial health would be analyzed to create a profile that is matched to adequate support for the family- or individual’s- unique situation. 

The SSTAR Initiative also puts a positive scope on small businesses and aims to reestablish the foundations of communities across the country. Small businesses that join the SSTAR Initiative would receive endorsement as SSTAR Community Supportive Organizations (CSOs) and could offer their goods or services at discounted rates where the federal government covers the differential. The magnitude of the SSTAR CSO discount would reflect the extent to which a business contributes to the overall wellbeing of the community. Businesses that apply and qualify to become SSTAR CSOs gain a significant advantage in being able to offer their wares at a lower price relative to their competitors without having to sacrifice profit. 

COMPETITORS

As the CARES Act discontinues funding, after serving only a fraction of its intended purpose in the midst of the pandemic- and leaving millions of Americans without a means of supporting themselves or their families- a new system must be considered in the immediate future. Many countries have experimented with UBI programs that do not have the capability to maintain a balanced equation- increasing the cash within a household yet failing to adequately cultivate healthy business structures that can employ more of the population. 

The SSTAR Initiative has significant potential to improve America’s safety-net by creating a single financial support program that is accessible to all Americans. Dr. Abiola emphasizes that “the goal is to provide a secure, efficient, and individualized mechanism for fund distribution and support businesses that play a crucial role in bringing our economy and the people that live in their communities back to a healthy state.” 

WHAT THIS MEANS FOR AMERICA’S FUTURE

COVID-19 has put millions of Americans out of work, and with every passing day families are still unemployed and coming closer to the end of their relief programs. The SSTAR Initiative would cover multiple facets, including those that have been pushed aside or left unaddressed prior to the pandemic. By fulfilling the needs of all American people and better preparing them for what’s to come, the program would drive the country towards a brighter economic future for both individuals and businesses.

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