This is the current long-running US political drama: When will the next US coronavirus relief round be approved, and what will the bill actually contain?
Congressional Democrats – and the administration of US President Donald Trump – have been arguing over the topic for months, while millions of struggling American families and small businesses anxiously await much-needed financial help.
Many of the provisions of April’s $ 2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) law expired at the end of July, and others that protect tenants, student borrowers and the unemployed will expire at the end of December.
So what’s the delay in approving additional aid? Here is the latest in the ongoing stimulus saga.
Psst, what do we mean by stimulus?
The coronavirus pandemic has shut down businesses, halted travel and thrown millions of people out of work, devastating economies around the world, including the United States.
Until there is widespread immunity to the virus, it will not work as usual in many industries. This is where the government comes in. Lawmakers in the US Congress can stimulate the economy with cash in the form of lifelines for small businesses, direct cash payments to households, improved unemployment benefits, a debt relief and other measures to help people come out of the pandemic.
Simply put: Throw money on the problem until things get better.
Money sounds good. So what’s the big debate?
Republicans and Democrats disagree on how much stimulus the US economy needs, what shape it should take, and how it should be distributed.
Generally speaking, Democrats want a bigger bill that provides additional federal unemployment benefits for workers – but it would cost $ 2.2 trillion.
Republicans want a clean version. The latest proposal from Trump’s Secretary of the Treasury, Steven Mnuchin, would cost $ 916 billion.
Both proposals mean spending more when the US government already has a budget deficit $ 3.3 trillion and the pandemic is not over yet.
Billions, billions – what would these bills actually do?
Democrats want to expand state unemployment benefits and restart the $ 300 federal weekly supplement for the unemployed, which expired at the end of July. They also want to help cash-strapped state and local governments and send another round of $ 1,200 stimulus checks to individuals.
What about Trump’s proposal?
Trump’s plan would give individuals stimulus checks of $ 600 – half of what they received in April – but would not include the federal top-up of $ 300 on state unemployment benefits.
It offers no help to states and local governments, which have seen their coffers empty by the crisis. It would also protect businesses, universities and schools from virus-related lawsuits.
Does anyone have any other ideas?
A third group – made up of senators from both parties – proposes a solution of 908 billion dollars. Led by Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia and GOP Senators Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, this group’s proposal includes the $ 300 per week for pandemic unemployment and $ 160 billion for states and local governments, but does not send a check. to every American.
When do they all have to come to an agreement?
Strictly speaking, this should have been fixed months ago. Or weeks ago. Or now.
But seriously, time is running out. On December 9, the House is expected to pass a week-long fundraising bill to give lawmakers more time to reach a deal. Without this measure, the US federal government would initiate a shutdown less than two weeks before Christmas.
A government closed during a pandemic? This does not sound good.
It is not. So Washington had better get down to business – and quickly.
So who owns the decision?
This is the problem – everyone’s problem. The House of Representatives – where Democrats are in the majority – first passes the stimulus bill.
The bill then passes through the Senate, where Republicans currently hold control. And then it will have to be signed by outgoing President Trump, who has less than two months in office.
For his part, Democratic President-elect Joe Biden has made it clear that he wants as much humanitarian aid as possible – but many struggling businesses and families can’t wait for help until he takes his functions January 20.
What’s at stake?
Outstanding are more than 10 million Americans who are unemployed, and the 30 to 40 million who could face deportation when a the moratorium expires at the end of the year, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition.
Families have struggled to put food on the table since the start of the pandemic. Feeding America, the country’s largest anti-hunger organization, said its network of nationwide food banks had distributed about 4.2 billion meals since March 1.
While politicians train, ordinary people are stuck in limbo. The United States is already seeing an increase in COVID-19 infections, and experts warn mass deportations could help spread the coronavirus. If that weren’t enough, a default on credit card debt after the holidays could spiral the financial markets.
If it’s this bad, why can’t politicians just play nice?
That’s a great question – and maybe a question for Santa Claus.