Congress struggles to negotiate second relief package

Ava Mac ‘21, Editor-in-Chief

With hospitals across the country being overwhelmed by an increasing number of COVID-19 cases and stay-at-home orders starting to be implemented state by state, citizens and policymakers alike have been requesting a relief package to keep both the American people and the American economy afloat. 

While most Congress members can agree that some form of relief is needed, the size, reach, and benefits associated with the relief package have been a topic of debate amongst politicians. 

Democrats originally proposed a $2.2 trillion package including a “second round of $1,200 direct payments to taxpayers and a revival of the $600 in weekly federal unemployment benefits that expired in late July,” according to economics reporter Joseph Zeballos-Roig. The package also included aid to state and local governments along with small businesses. 

Republicans proposed a significantly smaller relief package of $500 billion with benefits for small businesses and funding for public-health services, noting that the economy is performing much better than expected. 

After several months of disagreement and deadlock, a group of centrist Democrats and Republicans proposed a $908 billion relief package to find a compromise between the two different plans.

Details are still being worked out, but the current plan for this package is to allocate $160 billion to state and local governments, $288 billion to small businesses, and $180 billion to be used as unemployment benefits given at a rate of $300 per week for four months. Other funds will be used for education and vaccine development and distribution. Stimulus checks, such as the ones worth $1,200 issued in April, are not currently part of this plan.

This bipartisan effort has been backed by President-elect Joe Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, however, rejected the plan and presented a tweaked $550 billion version of the previous Republican proposal.

In spite of this, many Senate members are optimistic in their pursuit to approve the $908 billion proposal. (R) Utah Senator Mitt Romney said, “[We are] getting more and more support from Republicans and Democrats,” and with more bipartisan support, this proposal is more likely to be approved and approved soon. Time is ticking. Failure to negotiate some form of a relief package and economic legislation before midnight Dec. 18 would not only cause a potential government shutdown, but it would also leave up to 87 million workers without access to federally mandated benefits such as paid sick and family leave in the coming winter months.

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