Center for American Progress Action

CAP Action Memo: Trump’s Chaotic Pandemic Response Continues To Put Pennsylvania Health, Jobs, and Social Security at Risk
Press Release

CAP Action Memo: Trump’s Chaotic Pandemic Response Continues To Put Pennsylvania Health, Jobs, and Social Security at Risk

Pennsylvania unemployment when Trump took office: 5.2 percent

Pennsylvania unemployment now: 10.3 percent

Washington, D.C. — Tomorrow, President Donald Trump will arrive near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, to hold a rally in an airplane hangar at Harrisburg International Airport in Middletown. This event will be the 14th non-socially distanced rally held by Trump this month, where he has simultaneously minimized the COVID-19 pandemic and put Americans at risk despite having known the dangers of the virus since February. Last week, Trump cheered a decision to strike down Pennsylvania pandemic restrictions after the state recorded more than 150,000 virus cases and nearly 8,000 deaths as cases have risen in recent weeks while students return to schools and college campuses.

This week, as the United States passed the grim milestone of 200,000 deaths from COVID-19—or more than four times the entire population of Harrisburg—Trump continued to downplay the threat of the virus. He falsely claimed that it “affects virtually nobody” aside from elderly people with preexisting conditions, despite months ago telling Bob Woodward that “it’s not just old people.” The Trump administration’s botched handling of the pandemic—and lying to the American public—puts all of Pennsylvania at risk.

As a result of Trump’s failure to control the virus, the unemployment rate in Pennsylvania increased to 10.3 percent in August, compared with 5.2 percent when the Trump presidency began. In Harrisburg-Carlisle alone, the unemployment rate was 11.3 percent in July. In the absence of federal leadership or any national testing plan, the virus continues to spread—and uncertainty has caused wildly unstable economic conditions in the state. Amid this economic instability, Trump reduced unemployment benefits by $300 per week, increasing monthly shortfalls for Pennsylvania single-parent families with one child on a modest budget to $1,579 per month, according to a recent Center for American Progress analysis. As of September 24, more than 542,128 Pennsylvanians are still receiving some type of unemployment benefits. In total, 530,700 fewer Pennsylvanians were employed in August than in February—an 8.7 percent decline.

Instead of leading the country out of the pandemic, Trump has continued his long-time assault on Social Security by calling for the termination of a large portion of its dedicated funding source—payroll taxes. Trump’s proposal, according to Social Security Chief Actuary Stephen Goss, would wipe out the Social Security Trust Fund by 2023. More than 2.9 million Pennsylvania residents, or 22.3 percent of the state’s population, are Social Security beneficiaries. Meanwhile, nearly 1 million Pennsylvanians would lose their health coverage if the Trump administration-backed lawsuit to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) succeeds. And 5.2 million Pennsylvanians with preexisting conditions would lose critical protections against higher premiums or lose their coverage altogether.

Learn more about how the Trump administration’s policies have hurt Pennsylvania families and put them at risk below.

Health care

Promise: “Those with preexisting conditions will always get the quality coverage they need.” – Donald Trump, September 24, 2016 

Reality: The Trump administration is trying to repeal the ACA through the courts with no replacement. If successful, the administration would strip coverage from millions of Americans, raise premiums, and end protections for people with preexisting conditions. In Pennsylvania:

  • 89,000 Pennsylvania young adults under their parents’ coverage could lose care. Because of the ACA, millions of young adults are able to stay on their parents’ health insurance until age 26.
  • 5.2 million Pennsylvanians with preexisting conditions would lose protections if the Trump-backed lawsuit to repeal the ACA succeeds.

Profits and wages

Promise: “I will be the greatest jobs President that God ever created … [O]ur poorer citizens will get new jobs and higher pay and new hope for their life.” – Donald Trump, October 5, 2016

Reality: President Trump promised voters that he would prioritize the interests of the middle class. Instead, he’s prioritized the wealthiest Americans and corporations.

  • President Trump has the worst jobs record in history and is the only president to have lost net jobs on his watch.
  • Trump blocked a federal minimum wage increase for Pennsylvanian workers. Two million state workers were denied a pay increase, resulting in $7 billion in lost wages.


Promise: “No one will gain more from these proposals than low- and middle-income Americans.” – Donald Trump, August 8, 2016

Reality: Eighty-three percent of the Trump administration’s $2 trillion tax cut goes to big corporations and the rich. Many Pennsylvania families are getting stuck with the bill.

  • 375,990 Pennsylvania families paid more in taxes last year due to the Trump administration’s tax bill.
  • For the 2019 tax year, the average tax cut for the wealthiest 1 percent of Pennsylvania earners was $49,510. The average tax cut for the middle 20 percent was $770.

Drug costs

Promise: In 2016, Trump promised to save hundreds of billions of dollars by standing up to the pharmaceutical industry, saying that he would “negotiate like crazy” to bring down Medicare costs and that he was “going to bring down drug prices.”

Reality: In 2018, a “pharmaceutical industry insider” told Vox that “there has been an education of Mr. Trump.” Last year before the pandemic, drug company prices increased three times faster than wages.

For more information on this topic or to speak with an expert, please contact Zahir Rasheed at [email protected].