The $900 Billion Dollar Procrastination Compromise

At the 11th hour of CARES Act programs expiring and a government shutdown, Congress scrambles to give the American people table scraps.

The $900 Billion Dollar Procrastination Compromise
Tasos Katopodis | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Here are the programs that will run out a day after Christmas or soon after:

1.Pandemic Unemployment Assistance for gig workers, freelancers, and self-employed workers

2.Pandemic Unemployment Emergency Compensation (PUEC) program for workers who have exhausted their state benefits

3. Eviction protections for millions of Americans across the county after December 31st.

Keep in mind that extended unemployment benefits which provided an extra $600 or the $300 lump sum and the PPP for small businesses have long since run out.

We are hours away from a government shutdown as Congress continues to scramble to pass an omnibus spending bill with a COVID-19 relief bill attached by midnight tonight. The original HEROES Act including passed in May and even an amended $2.2 trillion dollar version bill was passed in October. These bills included things like hazard pay for essential workers and money for testing and tracing. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to put any of these to the floor for a vote.

So, where are we now? Unemployment claims have gone back up for two straight weeks. Consumer spending has fallen in November and December because it turns out you need money to spend to buy things. 26 million Americans around the country have said they don’t have enough to eat. Not to mention, the US is over 200,000 daily COVID cases and 3,000 deaths. All of this could have been pretended. We’ve heard the warnings. We’ve seen the signs. America, the richest country in the world, continues to treat its own citizens like that book report that you have to complete the Sunday before the due date.

At the 11th hour, while restaurants shut down, families all over the country are wondering where their next meals are going to come from, Congress is sparing over a $900 billion dollar bill. $900 billion. Britain has just extended its program that extends an 80% wage replacement for laid-off workers due to COVID-19. Canada is supplying $2,000 monthly payments to those who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic. However, Americans - here’s a $600 one-time payment and a $300 supplement to your benefits. We can’t do that $600 supplement. A lot of this feels like America’s motto - “well, be thankful you got something.”

As ICU beds are full around the country and state and local governments are trying to figure out how to make a vaccine infrastructure out of thin air, our government is on a verge of a shutdown because the Republican representatives in the Senate wanted to wait and see. They saw a highly transmissible virus that was spreading unchecked would just disappear, and an economy that lost 20 million of its workforce would just correct itself. A government shutdown would end up hurting states even more leading to layoffs of police officers, firefighters, and government officials.

While 8 million Americans have fallen into poverty since the summer, Republicans have held up aid, insisting on things like liability protections that help businesses skate any accountability of their workers getting sick. Just look at what’s going on at Amazon or Tyson Foods. Helping your citizens shouldn’t be a partisan issue and while one party fights for tax breaks for the wealthy, many are starving.

There’s a consensus that if the Democrats win the two Senate seats in the Georgia runoff in a couple of short weeks, that more aid will come.  That is pretty sad. Bank on a tie in the Senate so more robust relief can hopefully come to help. With a new administration incoming and the absence of the current one, America has to recenter its priorities on the many and not the few.  For a country that so beholden to the holiday of Christmas, the present that many families across the country are empty chairs and a deaf ear from those who represent them.