- Late Wednesday night, the Senate passed a $2 trillion emergency relief package intended to prevent – or delay – the total economic collapse of the United States.
- The bill passed unanimously, 96-0. Upon further examination of the rescue package, if passed by the House, most of the aid will go to large corporations while the workers of America are expected to still face tough times ahead.
- At the last minute, four GOP Senators tried to strip an amendment providing improved unemployment insurance for those who have been laid off, but they were blocked by Bernie Sanders, who threatened to hold up the bill.
- The Senate will now adjourn until April 20, while the House will vote on the bill by voice vote Friday.
After five days of back-and-forth negotiations between Republicans and Democratic Senators, the upper chamber of Congress unanimously passed a $2 trillion emergency package aimed at reducing the economic devastation caused by the global coronavirus pandemic.
The 880-page bill should provide a modicum of relief to the masses of laid-off American workers, but its primary function is providing massive bailouts for corporations/industries.
The one bright spot – an extra $600 per week unemployment insurance package – was challenged by four GOP Senators right before the vote. However, Bernie Sanders – who introduced the amendment – threatened to hold back the bill in its entirety and eventually got his way.
Sen. Sanders on the Senate floor Wednesday.
“The Senate has pivoted from one of the most contentious, partisan periods in the nation’s history to passing this rescue package 100 to nothing all in one quarter of this year,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said.
Following the 96-0 unanimous vote in favor of the country’s biggest economic stimulus package of all time, the upper chamber will take an extended recess until April 20. The bill now goes to the House, which is expected to pass and send it to the President’s desk on Friday.
What we know so far about the latest bill:
– $1200 in cash to those making up to $75K, $2400 for couples up to $150k, $500 for kids
– Increased unemployment benefits timeline
– $350 million in small business loans/direct $$ for those who maintain payroll
— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) March 25, 2020
Lots of Fine Print
This week, with news of Congress negotiating the terms of a large-scale stimulus package, the lobbyists were out in full force to get their hands on as much of that sweet taxpayer money as possible.
The Senate bill's section on loans to mid-sized businesses (less than 10K employees) includes requirements that they stay neutral in union organizing drives & do not offshore jobs
However, these provisions don't appear to apply to large corporations that may get federal support
— David Sirota (@davidsirota) March 25, 2020
By the time Mitch McConnell and company were done, the legislation was designed to do far more for big business interests than the American people.
“We went to McConnell’s people, we went to Schumer’s people, and Pelosi’s and McCarthy’s people — we pinged them all,” said Rachelle B. Bernstein, a lobbyist and tax counsel at the National Retail Federation, which pressed successfully for the $15-billion-a-year change in federal tax law.
For example, a $500 billion “general purpose” slush fund for industry bailouts was created to be distributed at the discretion of the Treasury Department. There is a provision in the bill meant to prevent cash from going to companies or investments owned by Trump or his family — but there are already easy workarounds.
Many hotel chains are eligible for the loans designed to help small and mid-sized businesses stay afloat and pay wages. Technically, recipients of this money are supposed to maintain their staff sizes, but many of the eventual beneficiaries have already executed mass layoffs.
$25 billion is going directly to airlines; the same companies that spent the last decade using every penny of their profits on stock buybacks to enrich executives and stockholders. The same goes for Boeing, which alone is receiving $17 billion in the deal.
Another $25 billion is going to emergency transit funding, along with an additional $30 billion towards emergency education funding. There are also tax cuts included in the 880 pages, meant to assist hotels, supermarkets, restaurants, and other retailers.
Workers and Unemployed Will Need More Soon
While American industries are getting everything they wanted, the citizens are getting a small bridge payment. The bill states that qualified adults will receive a one-time payment of $1,200, and kids will receive $500 each. Of course, there are issues with who will receive this stimulus cash and when.
April 1 is fast approaching, and the widespread shutdowns have forced millions of people out of the labor market. Not to mention the many gig workers and freelancers that make up the workforce. That’s a lot of people with major concerns regarding paying rent and bills.
The $1,200 isn’t going to be delivered within the next week. Some estimates say that recipients who don’t already have an account set up for direct deposit with the IRS will be forced to wait up to four months for their check!
The #stimulusbill gives people – unless you’re undocumented, in which case you get nothing – $1200 in one-time payments.
Meanwhile median rents for one-bedroom apartments in February 2020:
CA – $1455
— Sunrise Movement ? (@sunrisemvmt) March 25, 2020
The one provision that may prove helpful to America’s grounded workforce was inserted by Bernie Sanders. His inclusion increases unemployment benefits to an extra $600 per week for qualified individuals, which also goes for gig workers and freelancers that have lost their jobs.
Though, once again, there is still much work to do in terms of organizing these payouts. If the unemployment numbers are as horrifically high as some experts are projecting, trying to collect this cash might be a huge mess.
In the near future, Congress is going to be forced to reconvene over another stimulus plan specifically for American people. The current plan is a start but won’t do nearly enough to stop widespread evictions and food insecurities. The government is asking people to stay in their homes and then giving them a one-time check that isn’t enough to get by for a single month.
“This is not going to be the last bill,” Pelosi said, discussing the possibility of future legislation. “This bill is about mitigation for the damage that is being done … The next phase will be recovery.”