COVID Relief Package – Help for the American People or an Omnibus Spending Bill?

Written by Nolan Alisago (News Writer)

After a period of over 200 days of lower and middle-class American’s crawling their way through the pandemic, unassisted by the government, congress has finally managed to cough up a meager $600 stimulus check. Democrats passed $2000 stimulus checks in the house, but Republicans in the senate broke ranks with the president and chose to block the desperately needed and long overdue economic impact payments. As checks begin to be delivered, with considerable delays, important questions remain: Is this enough? And if not will there be more when Biden takes office.

The $900 billion Covid relief bill from where the stimulus checks come isn’t actually a Covid relief bill. There were a lot of controversies after the president pointed out that there were massive additional expenditures in the Covid relief bill, with millions going to things like foreign aid and education. While this seems out of place for this spending to be in a Covid relief bill, it’s completely reasonable and in character for what Congress had actually passed: an omnibus spending bill, with Covid relief tacked on. The bill funds the federal government through September of 2021 and puts into context exactly how much money the US Government spends. With hundreds of billions being thrown around to run the federal government, it seems ludicrous that after seven months only $600 could be carved out per economic impact payment. Yet, even if Senate Republicans hadn’t blocked the $2000 checks, it seems even that would be nowhere close to enough. 

While other countries have been able to skate by with similarly small stimulus checks, other developed nations’ robust social safety nets prevent many of the major financial crises that the US is currently suffering from. This being said, larger and more frequent direct payments are needed to be made by the US government in order to fill the role that large social security programs do in other nations. Vital provisions that were on the line in the bill such as renewal of $300 unemployment checks and payroll support for small businesses are also cut from the same cloth of compensating for our poor social security. The threat of homelessness is particularly acute because of our flimsy social security, but with $25 billion of the bill going to assisting renters to make payments when the eviction ban expires on January 31st, it is unclear whether it will be enough to stop an eviction crisis. The compensation for the nation’s failure to protect the poor has been amplified through the pandemic, causing hope that the incoming administration might recognize this failure and work for a massive overhaul of federal social security programs.

With the Biden team rearing to get into office, all eyes are on how they will handle the Pandemic. With a large number of infectious disease and public health experts on his Covid-19 advisory board, it seems his focus is on stopping the spread of the disease rather than mitigating its fiscal damage. But just because the priority is ending the virus, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have plans for social support. Biden already made clear he felt $600 wasn’t enough, and that he wants $2000 payments going out quickly after he takes office. While this is certainly the type of economic intervention that the nation has needed, it is his intended changes to social security and pandemic preparedness that are most likely to make the next global pandemic a much less disastrous affair. But with Trump’s impeachment on the horizon, it seems such changes might be seriously delayed as the senate becomes bogged down in impeachment proceedings. If the houses pass articles of impeachment, it could be a while until the next round of stimulus checks, and even longer before any substantial reform is made

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