Long-Awaited Coronavirus Relief Bill Leaves States, Communities Behind Without Much-Needed Support

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, after months of delay and mounting difficulties faced by Americans nationwide, Congress at last agreed to a $900 billion stimulus agreement. 

“Americans waited months for basic assistance from their government only to see Trump’s allies in Congress slow walk negotiations to the bitter end, fighting for the interests of corporations and the wealthy at the expense of workers and families,” said Kyle Herrig, president of government watchdog Accountable.US. “Small businesses are worried they won’t survive past the holidays. Parents are struggling to keep a roof over their kids’ heads. This new relief bill doesn’t do enough to help. Congress must do far more to ensure Americans have the support they need to carry on through the worsening public health and economic crises in the new year.” 

The plan comes as the dual public health and economic crises wreaking havoc on the nation are coming to a collective boiling point. The past few weeks have seen some of the deadliest days in American history, with the U.S. hitting the tragic milestone of 300,000 lives lost since the pandemic began. And with the holidays almost here, experts expect the first few weeks of the new year will see even more suffering — all while President Trump and his Senate allies have given up on curbing the spread of the virus in order to focus on obstructing President-elect Biden from building an administration that will clean up Trump’s messes.  

On top of all that, the end of the year comes with the expiration of many crucial relief and support programs from the CARES Act, which the new relief legislation does little to amend. With only a few days left until the new year, here are some of the crucial issues Congress must address to support the American public: 

  • Stimulus checks and unemployment aid: The new bill slashes the value of direct relief checks and unemployment insurance in half from what the CARES Act provided — leaving many families out in the cold without the means to pay for essentials like rent, food, and medicine
  • State and local aid: While private schools are able to access $2.75 billion in funding, the new bill does not include much-needed aid to states and local communities that are essential for implementing public safety measures otherwise maintaining basic support for their populations amid the pandemic.
  • Paycheck Protection Program: The bill will extend Trump’s Paycheck Protection Program — a relief program intended to help small businesses keep the lights on and meet payroll that, due to the administration’s poor design and implementation, became a cash cow for the wealthy and well-connected. But without essential new transparency and oversight measures, more of the rampant abuse, misuse, and fraud that plagued the initial rounds of the PPP are likely to resurface
  • Big Business Tax Breaks: The new bill also reportedly includes a special interest provision that aims to further benefit the richest and most powerful beneficiaries of the Trump Small Business Administration’s flawed Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). 
    • Just as the Brookings Institute warned, the bill will include “a $120 billion windfall to the top 1 percent” by allowing businesses to write off expenses that were paid for with money from the forgivable, taxpayer-backed PPP loans they received from the Trump administration — essentially allowing large businesses like the more than 1,000 publicly traded companies that took over $1.6 billion in PPP loans to double-dip in taxpayer support. 
  • Tax breaks for the wealthy: The bill reportedly includes a provision allowing for a corporate tax deduction for three martini lunches, a long-held priority for President Trump.
  • Student loans: The bill doesn’t extend the pause the CARES Act placed on student loan payments. As CNBC noted, in the middle of a pandemic that is only growing worse by the day, “42 million borrowers will have to resume their payments in a little over a month.
  • Eviction moratorium: While the bill would extend the eviction moratorium through January 31, nearly 19 million people in approximately 8 million households could still be facing eviction in just about one month’s time.

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