Service workers in cafes, restaurants and hotels are among the first economic victims of the coronavirus epidemic. So are many of their employers. As more of these businesses shut down, millions of people will need help to survive -- help that reflects the reality of low-wage and hourly work. Vulnerable workers are demanding an inclusive, accessible program of paid sick days, wage replacement and access to health care as part of any disaster response.

Meeting these needs seems daunting: How can we weave an economic safety net while addressing a public health crisis? But examples from other nations, and our own recent history, show it can be done.

So far, the federal government has done little to help working people. On Friday, President Trump made a show of waiving the interest on federal student loans, but failed to note that monthly payments won't be reduced. On Saturday, the House of Representatives passed a coronavirus bill that expands paid sick leave but exempts so many large corporations and small businesses that only 20 percent of the American work force will be covered. There is as yet no compensation for wage earners remotely analogous to the $1.5 trillion in short-term loans promised by the Federal Reserve, despite the fact that three million people are expected to lose their jobs before June. Ordinary Americans foresee a cruel repetition of the financial crisis, when banks and automakers became the beneficiaries of "corporate socialism."

Contrast these moves with those in France, where the president vowed to suspend all rents, electricity, gas and heating bills for small and medium-size businesses throughout the coronavirus crisis. The Irish government has promised to commit most of its stimulus package of 3.1 billion euros (around $3.4 billion) to benefit sick and unemployed workers, not corporations, and ​Danish lawmakers will pay up to 75 percent of some private-sector employees' salaries to prevent layoffs

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