- There is a lot of nonsense being released about the latest COVID humanitarian aid package.
- People are trying to argue that the only thing the average American gets is the $ 600 check, but that is not true. The package includes a variety of programs that will help people in need.
- Increased and extended unemployment benefits will help people who are out of work, funding for schools, traffic and roads will help local governments, and there is money for food stamps and rent assistance – plus hundreds of billions for small businesses to keep paying. workers.
- The biggest problem now is that many benefits will expire in the next few days, so the bill needs to be signed now. It’s not the time to reopen negotiations to get President Trump’s desired $ 2,000 checks in the package.
- In the name of all needy Americans: just make that damn bill into law.
- This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
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I got the feeling that so many people are talking about the much needed COVID aid package that President Donald Trump is, at least implicitly, threatening not to sign the law.
Specifically, I understood that the package costs “only $ 600”.
Direct payment checks are a significant component of this package, just as they were a significant component of the CARES Act, but they are not the main one. They represent only one sixth of the cost. And before saying “well, this is the part that is up to people”, stop, because you are wrong. This bill is replete with other programs that provide essential support to ordinary people, with a focus on people who have faced Special suffering due to the COVID crisis.
The characterization of this package as “only $ 600” has obscured all the good that the package can do if it becomes law, and all the damage that will come to particularly vulnerable people if it does not. Most importantly, if that bill does not become law by Saturday, 14 million Americans will lose the unemployment benefits on which they depend. This is not a game.
What else does the package do? It provides hundreds of billions of dollars to small businesses on the condition that they keep employees on their payroll through the Paycheck Protection Program. This is another area where criticisms of our relief approach have been contradictory. We hear that the US is “not doing” payroll support like other countries are – except that we’re doing it, that’s what PPP is – and then we hear complaints that PPP payments go to employers, although that is an inherent feature of payroll support.
The package also contains $ 13 billion to increase SNAP benefits (food stamps) and $ 25 billion for rental assistance.
It contains financial support for various institutions to continue to pay people and provide services. There is $ 82 billion in educational aid to help school districts keep staff on payroll and help public colleges avoid huge tuition increases.
There is $ 14 billion to help transit systems avoid service cuts and $ 10 billion for state highway departments that have been hampered by low gas tax revenue. Even the $ 15 billion in air aid – which is not my favorite part of the package – is saving jobs, because airlines need to bring employees back on the payroll to receive them. American Airlines and United Airlines announced the recall of 32,000 licensed workers, expecting the project to become law.
The bill also foresees billions of dollars to enable the distribution and administration of vaccines that will save lives and enable the economy to reopen.
In all, the bill adds up to 4% of GDP, making it one of the largest fiscal support packages ever approved in the US. Far from being a crumb, it provides tremendous support to the labor market and the workforce to help people continue to support their families and keep their businesses running, so they can rehire and expand as soon as the virus conditions permit.
Let’s be clear about the checks
Yes, I know, you would like the checks to be bigger. “Why can’t we be like other countries?” you can ask. Why can’t we send everyone $ 2,000 a month, like Canada did? This is a good question. In fact, wait, it’s not a good question, because Canada didn’t do that.
Canada’s Emergency Response Benefit was a program that paid residents 500 Canadian dollars a week ($ 389) if they were out of work. Most Canadians were not entitled to payment. And when Canada increased its unemployment insurance, we increased ours too, by more. (CERB has since run out and has been succeeded by similarly generous programs.)
If the relief bill is enacted, the typical US unemployment benefit will increase once again to $ 600 a week, including basic and enhanced benefits, and benefits will be extended beyond their usual time limits to help Americans who were long-term unemployed by this crisis. But if, instead, we joke and pretend that President Trump is serious about reopening the package and sending bigger checks to the population as a whole, then 14 million Americans who currently receive unemployment insurance will not start receiving anything.
There is a fiction that other countries, in general, have done much more than the United States to provide fiscal support to the public in this crisis. You hear that claim of about $ 2,000 in monthly payments to everyone in Canada (wrong) or that the Italian government is paying 80% of people’s wages (wrong) or that it is typical for other countries to provide extensive weekly or monthly cash payments (wrong, wrong, wrong)
In the spring, I saw relentless comparisons of other countries’ unemployment benefits or payroll support with our own stimulus checks, ignoring the fact that the US enacted significant unemployment and payroll support in addition to those checks . (Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez made this comparison of apples with oranges as recently as earlier this month.) In fact, if this package becomes law, total US fiscal support to neutralize COVID will add up to 18% of GDP, according to economic researchers from universities in New York, Turkey and South Korea who are tracking the fiscal response. global. This would put us a little behind Germany and ahead of Canada, France, Italy and the United Kingdom in terms of how much money our government has devoted to supporting society during this crisis. Our generosity is behind Japan, which has provided an extraordinary level of support, but it is better than most large similar countries that American liberals are continually convinced that they do everything better than we do.
No, the account is not perfect
This relief bill does not contain everything it should. There are problems with our state-run unemployment insurance systems, PPP does not work for all small businesses, and aid does not reach everyone who needs it. But these programs are providing broad support to many of the people in our society who have been especially in need of this crisis – as you can see from the huge number of people who can lose benefits and face serious financial difficulties if it is not enacted.
And the supposed left-right consensus around increasing the amount of stimulus checks is a mirage. It’s fun to say “Trump, Josh Hawley and AOC agree on this, let’s do this.” But did you hear the president’s speech last night? His objection to the bills going to his table is not only that he wants bigger checks, he also wants big cuts in various types of spending.
There is no inter-party consensus on how to revise this package, which cannot be amended because it has already been approved in Congress. The consequence of reopening conversations about what it should contain is that the programs set to be continued by the package will expire, not that it will be improved.
In any case, another aid package will be needed in just a few months, because the extension of unemployment benefits in this package is valid for only 11 weeks. (And why does it last for only 11 weeks? Partly because the populist call for bigger checks tapped the Republican insistence on limiting the overall size of the package. So negotiators had to shorten the time frame for rising unemployment to reallocate money for cash stimulus, most of which will go to people who have not lost their jobs, very well at all.) This will provide another opportunity to push for other relief measures, including a third round of stimulus checks.
But today, what is most needed is for the president to sign this bill and take a large amount of aid into the hands of people and organizations in desperate need. And that would be obvious to more people if there weren’t so many lies about what’s on the bill.