Senate Passes $2 Trillion Coronavirus Stimulus Package

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Highlights:
  • 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.

Lots of Fine Print

“Never let a crisis go to waste” is a popular saying in Washington DC, and the coronavirus pandemic has proven no different.

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.

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.

Exerpt from the New York Times:
This lobbying push was unlike any other, as social distancing measures intended to limit the spread of the virus among lawmakers and their staffs left the Capitol eerily quiet. Lobbyists instead pressed their causes to staff members and lawmakers over the phone, or via email.

“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 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.

The traditional “you should have had savings and been prepared” arguments will fall on deaf ears considering how many of the 2020 recipients of corporate welfare are the same industries that had to be bailed out in 2009. If they aren’t saving and preparing for the future, how can they tell the people to?

“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.”

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Will Cormier / Author

Will Cormier is a sports and political betting writer living in downtown Las Vegas, Nevada. When he’s not wandering around the streets of the Arts District aimlessly, a lifetime of pessimism and paranoia has made Will perfectly suited for handicapping politics. Cormier tries to analyze current events as objectively as possible – a strategy that often enrages loyalists on both the right and the left. When he’s not covering major upcoming elections, Will enjoys writing about basketball, football, and MMA from a betting perspective. He also loves dogs, ice cream sundaes, the movie “Stomp the Yard,” and long walks on the beach.