Late in the evening last night, the Trump administration signed the COVID relief package in an attempt to avert the crisis of a government shutdown. The $900 billion bill contains a lot of good things, as could be expected. But for many struggling Americans nationwide, the $600 in economic relief it provides for families who’ve been devastated by the pandemic is hardly enough to even scratch the surface of the economic turmoil that’s been thrust upon them.
$600 isn’t enough to pay rent for a one-bedroom apartment in any state in America. $600 is a little over half of the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the entirety of America.
$600 won’t cover your bills. $600 won’t cover most monthly insurance premiums. $600 won’t cover much food. And $600 won’t cover virtually any of the debts amassed by a population who’ve been forced into dire economic straits, both by the pandemic itself, and by the clear and negligent lack of a response to the pandemic.
$600 is a Congressional slap in the face and we have no one but Senate Republicans and the President who was asleep at the wheel to blame.
The second stimulus package has been in the works for what feels like ages. It’s been all year we’ve been waiting for this. The House of Representatives passed the Heroes Act all the way back in May, a bill that contained plenty of relief for American families, including another $1,200 stimulus check to every American household.
The Heroes Act, HR6800, contained in addition to the stimulus checks, emergency supplemental appropriations to federal agencies, payments and other assistance to state, local, tribal, and territorial governments, expanded paid sick days, family and medical leave, unemployment compensation, nutrition and food assistance programs, housing assistance, and payments to farmers. But Senate Republicans refused to put that to a vote.
And President Trump — who could’ve been pressing Republicans to pass it — fell asleep at the wheel. All the President’s focus has been on trying to overturn the November election in which he lost the presidency to President-Elect Joe Biden and nearly forgot that a pandemic was raging. Now, the President is scrambling, after the relief bill had passed both chambers, and he’s demanding that Congress pass another one with $2,000 for each American instead of the paltry $600.
The Heroes Act isn’t what passed. Instead, the Senate passed the The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, a portion of which is the economic relief package which Trump himself referred to as “a disgrace”, a bill that contains fragments of some of the things contained in the Heroes Act and some other additions. What Trump signed into law also sparked some outrage.
The Internet erupted in a firestorm over what was mistakenly believed to be a slew of foreign aid tucked into the bill. Contrary to trendy belief, there was no support for foreign aid in the $900 billion Coronavirus relief package.
Congress passed both the $900 relief package and the $2.3 trillion omnibus bill, a series of twelve different bills that each contain funding for different sectors next year. The relief package was one of those different bills that were all offered up at the same time.
So, what’s in the $900 relief package that was passed?
Some surprisingly good things. The problem isn’t that it’s bad, the problem is that there isn’t enough of those good things because Senate Republicans, having lost the Presidency, are now switching back to feigning concern for the deficit.
- $600 in a one-time direct cash payment to individual income earners who make $75,000 a year based on 2019 earnings (adjusted income).
- $1200 in a one-time direct cash payment to heads of household who earn less than $112,500 per year (adjusted income).
- $1200 in a one-time direct cash payment to couples who make less than $150,000 per year (adjusted income).
- $300 per week extended unemployment benefits for those who are jobless in the pandemic and who qualify.
- A vital $82 billion for school funding and education, though still a drop in the bucket, is some much-needed relief for an education system that’s been stretched to the max. $54 billion for K-12, $23 billion for colleges.
- $285 billion for small business loans through the Paycheck Protection Program. $12 billion is designated specifically for minority-owned businesses.
- $13 billion for expanded SNAP benefits (also known as food stamps) to be expanded 15% from January 1st onward, with $400 million going to help food banks and $175 million of that dedicated to Meals on Wheels.
- $7 billion on expanded internet access, including up to $50 a month for low-income families who need assistance paying for broadband access.
- $35 billion to expand clean energy, wind, solar, as well as green air-conditioning and more.
- $25 billion in rental assistance with an extension on the moratorium on evictions and foreclosures until February 28th, 2021.
- $10 billion for childcare facilities who are struggling to stay afloat during the pandemic.
- $20 billion for the purchasing of vaccines, $20 billion for the test-and-trace programs implemented by the states, and $8 billion for the distribution of the vaccines as part of a $70 billion public health package.
You can read more on what’s all contained in the bill here.
But what strikes me as odd is President Trump’s total aloofness to the problem at hand and his final reckoning that came entirely too late. Suddenly, President Trump is the one fighting for $2,000 direct payments to individuals after the House and Senate had finally agreed, with Steve Mnuchin who was supposed to be doing the negotiations on Trump’s behalf, and each signed the $900 billion aid bill into law in each house, respectively.
A few hours ago, the House of Representatives passed an additional relief bill, with $2,000 direct payments included, but that’s likely to go nowhere in the Senate on Mitch McConnell’s watch. The overall Republican consensus in both chambers seems to be that $2,000 is too much.
Alas, for now, the $900 relief bill is all we get, as most Senate Republicans shift gears from recklessly spending to expand things like the bogus border wall and for tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, pivoting back to pretending to be the spendthrift cheapskates they’d like to believe they are. In fact, Republicans and Mnuchin had to talk Trump into the last-minute signing of the bills to avert the crisis of government shutdown.
It seems that everyone, save Democrats in their respective chambers of government, had dropped the ball. Trump was looking out for himself and playing quasi-Fascist until he suddenly decided to play the populist card once again. It seems to me that Trump’s rebuke of the bill is much more a rebuke of Republicans he feels are doing him wrong by admitting that Biden won the election than anything else.
Republicans, on the other hand, exploited an extremely weak moment for Americans, as we’re all caught between the rock of the global pandemic and the hard place of bills that come due every month, bills that care not for our excuses pertaining to why we can’t pay them. Americans are crushed. And for a man who spent his entire 2016 campaign promising to “drain the swamp”, it seems that Trump’s Presidency is ending on a particularly swampy note.
The looming and overarching problem is a Republican Party very sympathetic to the extremely wealthy Americans who often fund their campaigns, made up of constituent party members who share a total disregard for the vast majority of working-class Americans who are struggling the hardest right now.
It’s all so very predictable. Republicans did what Republicans do, Democrats tried and failed to get more to the American people, and Trump looked out for only himself until he realized that doing so was making him look bad to everyone else.
It’s as if they don’t realize that further economic catastrophe will only hurt us all, every single American. And thus, $600 and the rest of svelte bill, is merely a congressional slap in the face of every single American. Our economy is in shambles and Republicans in Congress ane nickel-and-diming us over every little red cent, further destroying the economy in the process. We can do better.
And hopefully a Biden administration will.