Optimism about delivering long-sought COVID-19 relief is building after the rank-and-file lawmakers voiced support for a bipartisan, middle-of-the-road plan taking shape in the Senate and as top congressional leaders connected on the topic for the first time in months. This time, the stimulus package proposes more than $900 billion in relief, which is a far-cry from the $3 trillion CARES Act. The new package—proposed Tuesday Dec. 1, 2020, by a group of bipartisan lawmakers—would provide $288 billion to revitalize the Paycheck Protection Program, four months of federal unemployment benefits at $300 per week estimated at $180 billion, an additional $160 billion in state and local government funding and a moratorium for certain coronavirus-related lawsuits against businesses. The new proposed stimulus would also provide $45 billion to transportation agencies, $82 billon to education, $26 billion to nutrition assistance and agriculture, and $16 billion in to aid the healthcare sector.
The $45 billion earmarked for the transportation industry is rumored to assist airlines, airports and Amtrak. While the $16 billion for the healthcare sector would assist vaccines, COVID-19 testing and contact tracing as well as $5 billion for opioid treatment. An additional $25 billion is estimated for rental assistance. Another $10 billion each is also slated to assist the United States Postal Service, child care services and broadband services.
The proposal, however, does not include any aid to state or local governments, which is a key divide between the parties. Additionally, the $900 billion package includes protections from liability for businesses—something that Democrats are calling a “poison pill.”
It should come as no surprise that both parties are still at odds, including as to whether this will be the last round of stimulus or if it is just the first step of a more comprehensive aid package to come in the spring. Shortly after the bipartisan announcement of the $900 billion relief package, each party introduced their own separate relief packages. For example, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel proposed a less-comprehensive $500 billion “skinny” package that included more protections for businesses facing liability amid the pandemic.
However, as our Congress publicly debates the size of the stimulus package, advocacy groups, industry leaders and economists are all in agreement that more relief is needed. Businesses nationwide have been impacted by the coronavirus and economic strain continues to increase for families. In contrast to the CARES Act, the newly proposed bipartisan effort does not include any economic impact payments for individuals.
It is clear by each passing day that businesses and families need assistance now. Congress’ session is set to recess for the year on Dec. 11, 2020. The deadline should provide added motivation for Republicans and Democrats to strike a deal before the holiday recess. It is clear that action is needed now, and while some politicians may want to wait until there is a change in administration, waiting only increases the pressure on American businesses and families.
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