- There is a lot of nonsense being talked about the latest COVID aid package.
- People try to argue that the only thing average Americans get is the $ 600 check, but that’s not true. The package contains a series of programs that will help the most needy.
- Increased and extended unemployment benefits will help those out of work, funding for schools, public transportation and roads will help local governments, and there is money for food stamps and rent aid – plus hundreds of billions for small businesses to keep paying employees.
- The biggest problem right now is that many benefits will expire in the next few days, so the invoice must be signed now. It is no time to reopen negotiations to get President Trump’s $ 2,000 checks in the package.
- On behalf of all Americans in need, make that damn law a law.
- This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
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I’ve had it with the nonsense that so many people talk about the much-needed COVID aid package that President Donald Trump threatens, at least implicitly, not to sign by law.
In particular, I’ve had it with the meme that the package is “only $ 600”.
Checks for direct payments are an important part of this package, just as they were an important part of the CARES law, but they are not the most important. They only make up about one-sixth of the costs. And before you say, “Well, that’s the part that goes to the people,” stop, because you’re wrong. This bill is full of other programs that provide essential support to ordinary people, targeting people who have dealt with it special hardship as a result of the COVID crisis.
The characterization of this package as “only $ 600” has obscured all the good the package can do if it becomes law, and all the damage that will befall particularly vulnerable people if it doesn’t. Most importantly, if this bill doesn’t become law on Saturday, 14 million Americans will lose the unemployment benefits they relied on. This is not a game.
What else does the package do? It provides hundreds of billions of dollars to small businesses provided they keep employees on their payroll, through the Paycheck Protection Program. This is another area where criticism of our approach to counseling has contradicted itself. We hear that the US “doesn’t do” wage support like other countries – except we do, which is what PPP is – and then we hear complaints that PPP payments are going to employers, even though that’s an inherent feature of salary support.
The package also includes $ 13 billion to increase SNAP (food stamps) benefits and $ 25 billion for rent relief.
It includes financial support for various institutions so that they can 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 massive tuition hikes.
There is $ 14 billion to help transit systems avoid service disruptions, and $ 10 billion to state highway sections battered by low gas tax revenues. Even the $ 15 billion in aviation aid – not my favorite part of the package – is saving jobs, as airlines have to put workers back on their payroll to receive them. American Airlines and United Airlines have announced recalls of 32,000 leave workers expecting the bill to become law.
The bill also provides for billions of dollars to enable the distribution and administration of vaccines that will save lives and allow the economy to reopen.
All told, the bill contributes to 4 percent of GDP, making it one of the largest tax relief packages ever introduced in the US. Far from crumbs, it provides tremendous support to the job market and workforce to help people continue to support their families and keep businesses running so they can re-hire and expand as virus conditions permit.
Let’s be clear about the controls
Yes, I know, you wish the checks were bigger. “Why can’t we be like other countries?” you might ask. Why can’t we send everyone $ 2000 a month like Canada did? That is a good question. Actually wait, it’s not a good question because Canada hasn’t.
The Canada Emergency Response Benefit used to be a program that paid residents 500 Canadian dollars ($ 389) weekly when they were out of work. Most Canadians were not eligible for the payment. And when Canada increased its unemployment benefits, we increased ours too, by more. (CERB has since been on and has been succeeded by programs of similar generosity.)
If the Emergency Relief Act is passed, typical US unemployment benefits will return to $ 600 per week, including the basics and improved benefits, and benefits will be extended beyond their usual time limits to help Americans who have been made long-term unemployed. because of this crisis. But if instead we mess around and pretend President Trump is serious about reopening the package and sending bigger checks to the population as a whole, then 14 million Americans currently on unemployment benefits will get nothing.
There’s a fiction floating around that other countries have generally done a lot more than the US has done to provide the public with fiscal support in this crisis. You hear that claim about monthly payments of $ 2,000 to everyone in Canada (wrong) or that the Italian government pays 80% of people’s salaries (wrong) or whether it is common for other countries to provide broad weekly or monthly cash payments (wrong, wrong, wrong).
In the spring, I saw relentless comparisons of other countries’ unemployment benefits or payrolls with our own stimulus controls, ignoring the fact that in addition to those controls, the US had also introduced significant unemployment and wage support. (Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez made this comparison between apples and oranges as recently as earlier this monthIn fact, if this package becomes law, total US fiscal support to counter COVID will reach 18% of GDP, according to economic researchers from universities in New York, Turkey and South Korea who monitor the global fiscal response. . This would put us a bit behind Germany and Canada, France, Italy and the UK in terms of how much money our government has put out to support society during this crisis. Our generosity lags behind Japan, which has provided an extraordinary level of support, but is better than most of the great peer countries, which American liberals are persistently convinced are doing everything better than us.
No, the bill is not perfect
This bill does not contain everything it should contain. There are problems with our state-run unemployment insurance systems, PPP doesn’t work for every small business, and the help isn’t getting everyone who needs it. But these programs provide broad support to many of the people in our society who have become particularly needy as a result of this crisis – as you can see from the sheer number of people who are at risk of losing benefits and facing serious financial hardship when they do. not executed.
And the supposed left-right consensus about increasing stimulus controls is a mirage. It’s nice to say “Trump and Josh Hawley and AOC agree on this, let’s get it done.” But did you listen to the president’s speech last night? His objection to the bills going to his desk is not only that he wants bigger checks, he also wants hefty cuts in various types of expenses.
There is no cross-party consensus on how to revise this package, which cannot even be changed because it has already passed through Congress. The effect of reopening talks about what should be in it is that the programs continued by the package will expire, not that it will be improved.
In any case, a childcare package will be needed in a few months, because the extension of the unemployment benefit in this package will only run for 11 weeks. (And why is it only running for 11 weeks? Partly because the populist call for bigger controls bumped into Republican urges to limit the overall size of the package, most of which go to people who haven’t lost their jobs, all done so well. That will provide another opportunity to push for other contingency measures, including a third round of incentive checks.
But today, what is most needed is for the president to sign this bill and get a great deal of help from people and organizations who need it badly. And that would be clear to more people if there wasn’t so much lying about what was on the bill.