There is little reason to hold back on the latest COVID-19 response package that now appears likely to make its way to President Biden’s desk as early as next month. Some have claimed that the …
There is little reason to hold back on the latest COVID-19 response package that now appears likely to make its way to President Biden’s desk as early as next month. Some have claimed that the top line number of $1.9 trillion is too high, but that number assumes that all of the funds the measure would allocate, are actually spent.
Here’s the reality: most of the funds that the bill will allocate come with a variety of criteria that limit eligibility, whether it’s for individuals, small businesses, schools, municipalities, or states.
If the funding that’s authorized by Congress exceeds the actual need, some of those funds will likely go unclaimed. Indeed, one of the arguments currently being made by critics of the Biden proposal is that some of the funds approved in earlier stimulus packages remain unspent. The final price tag on the package likely won’t hit $1.9 trillion, particularly if the fight against the pandemic begins to show success. It’s far better, however, to have the funding authorized now, in case the fallout from the pandemic hangs on longer than we all hope.
There’s no question that the impact of the coronavirus continues to plague workers, families, and the economy. The economy lost 140,000 jobs in December and added just 6,000 private sector jobs last month, reflecting a new slowdown likely related to the fall and early winter surge in COVID-19 cases. The Congressional Budget Office released estimates last week that predict the economy won’t return to pre-pandemic levels of employment until 2024, at least not without additional stimulus.
And keep in mind that much of Biden’s stimulus package is directed, at least primarily, toward addressing the pandemic’s costs to society. The package also includes:
$170 billion to help schools safely reopen to students. That’s important for both the educational and emotional health of students and teachers, and it’s equally important for working parents, many of whom have experienced job loss or reduced hours as they must stay home to take care of kids unable to attend in-person classes.
$70 billion to ramp up a national vaccine program and to greatly expand testing access.
Hiring 100,000 additional public health workers to facilitate the ramp up of vaccination and testing. Some of those workers will be earmarked to expand care to underserved populations, including Native Americans, who have been hit particularly hard by COVID-19.
$350 billion to assist states and local governments to keep front-line workers, such as emergency responders and teachers, on the job. The pandemic’s impacts to the economy have left hard-hit states facing sizable budget shortfalls that could force layoffs and other spending cuts that will further weaken the economy.
The direct economic assistance in the plan will also make a huge difference for millions of American families and small businesses. The plan includes another round of stimulus checks, this time for $1,400 per person, adding to the $600 approved in December. Those checks are likely to be more targeted to low-and-moderate-income families, since they are the ones who, by and large, have experienced the greatest economic hit from the pandemic. The plan further expands unemployment compensation for workers, provides assistance for the millions of American families who are now behind on their rent due to job losses or reduced hours as a result of the pandemic, and expands the Earned Income Tax Credit to include more families and boost the credit for both parents and childless adults. The plan includes additional funding for childcare, both to help struggling centers and to make it more affordable for parents so they are able to work.
It’s not a perfect plan. There is no such thing that comes out of Washington, or anywhere else. But when you actually dig into the details, it’s plain that the vast majority of the spending included in this package is needed and will make life a little less of a struggle for lots of Americans. By addressing the wide range of needs, the plan will help address our public health crisis, get kids back in schools, and make sure their parents have the resources to keep a roof over their heads. And this all contributes to a faster and more robust economic recovery. Let’s get the bill passed so everyone can get back to work.