Congressional leaders have reached a bipartisan deal on an almost $1 trillion covid-19 economic relief package Sunday afternoon that would establish a temporary $300 per week bump in unemployment benefits and send $600 stimulus checks to most Americans, the Associated Press reports.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York, announced the deal on the Senate floor just days before Christmas.
“The great news is, Congress is not going to be the Grinch,” said Virginia Senator Mark Warner on Sunday morning as negotiations appeared to close in on an agreement, per the Guardian.
The House of Representatives and Senate are expected to vote on the deal on Monday, and will almost certainly approve it just as the U.S. has seen unprecedented case spikes, hospitalizations, and deaths in recent weeks. To date, there have been more than 17.8 million covid-19 cases and 317,000 deaths nationwide, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.
At a cost of approximately $900 billion, this deal would the second-largest economic stimulus package in U.S. history following the more than $2 trillion CARES Act in March. The final agreement would combine this relief package with a $1.4 trillion government-wide funding plan, making it the largest spending measure in America to date, AP reports.
The $600 payment would be subject to similar stipulations as the previous round of stimulus checks. Two people familiar with the matter told the Washington Post that people who earned more than $75,000 in 2019 likely won’t receive the full amount. As for the $300 per week bonus jobless benefits, they would be limited to a 10-week period instead of 16 weeks like last time. The package would also include as much as $330 billion in subsidies for small businesses and funnel tens of billions of dollars to schools, health care providers, renters facing eviction, and a bevy of other critical needs, per the Post.
And while this package is undoubtedly a welcome relief, it’s frankly embarrassing that Congress has decided $1,800 is enough money for Americans to survive on this year amid a worldwide health and economic crisis. That means Congress thinks roughly $150 is enough to cover each person’s monthly expenses for the past year (those fortunate enough not to fall through the cracks with receiving payments, that is). And even that pittance took months of lengthy negotiations for Congress to agree on it.
I mean, I was happy to hear Congress finally reached an agreement, don’t get me wrong. But I can’t help but think of that scene at the beginning of Mad Max: Fury Road. You know the one where Immortan Joe opens the floodgates for all of three seconds for the wretched masses below dying of thirst, and then chastises them about “becoming addicted to water” when they complain? $600 feels like a drop in the bucket at this point for the millions of Americans struggling amid the effects of rising poverty rates, widespread unemployment, and a deadly virus in a country with some of the highest healthcare costs in the world.