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US stimulus saga: what could end up in the new COVID-19 relief bill? | Business and Economy News


This is the current long-running US political soap opera: When will the next round of US coronavirus aid be approved, and what will the bill actually contain?

Congressional Democrats – and the administration of US President Donald Trump – have been battling over the topic for months, as millions of struggling American families and small businesses anxiously await much-needed financial help.

Many provisions of April’s $ 2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) law expired at the end of July, and others that protect tenants, student loan borrowers and the unemployed will expire end December.

So what’s the delay in approving more help? Here are the latest news from the ongoing relaunch saga.

Psst, what do we mean by stimulus?

The coronavirus pandemic has closed businesses, disrupted travel and put millions of people out of work, devastating economies around the world, including the United States.

Until there is widespread immunity to the virus, it will not be business as usual for many industries. This is where the government comes in. Lawmakers in the US Congress can boost the economy with money in the form of financial lifelines for small businesses, direct cash payments to households, improved unemployment benefits, debt relief and more measures to help people overcome the pandemic.

Simply put: Throw money on the problem until things get better.

Money rings good. So what’s the big debate?

Republicans and Democrats disagree on what stimulus the US economy needs, what form it should take, and how it should be distributed.

Generally speaking, Democrats want a bigger bill that provides additional federal unemployment benefits to workers – but it would cost $ 2.2 trillion.

Republicans want a clean version. The latest proposal from Trump’s Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin would cost $ 916 billion.

Both proposals mean spending more when the US government already has a budget deficit of $ 3.3 trillion and the pandemic is not yet over.

Democratic leaders Senator Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi call for more stimulus for struggling American families and businesses [File: Hannah McKay/Reuters]

Billions, billions – what would these bills actually do?

Democrats want to extend state unemployment benefits and restart the federal weekly supplement of $ 300 for the unemployed, which expired in late July. They also want to relieve cash-strapped state and local governments and send another round of $ 1,200 stimulus checks to individuals.

What about Trump’s proposal?

Trump’s plan would give individuals stimulus checks of $ 600 – half of what they received in April – but would not include the federal top-up of $ 300 on state unemployment benefits.

It offers no help to state and local governments, which have seen their coffers depleted by the crisis. It would also protect businesses, universities and schools from virus-related lawsuits.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin offered a lean $ 916 billion bill to House Democrats [File: Greg Nash/Pool via Reuters]

Does anyone have any other ideas?

A third group, made up of senators from both parties, is proposing a solution of $ 908 billion. Led by Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia and GOP Senators Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, this group’s proposal includes pandemic unemployment benefit of $ 300 per week and $ 160 billion for states and local governments, but does not send a check to every American.

When do they all have to come to an agreement?

Strictly speaking, this should have been fixed months ago. Or weeks ago. Or right away.

But seriously, time is running out. On December 9, the House is expected to pass a week-long fundraising bill to give lawmakers more time to reach a deal. Without this measure, the US federal government would enter a shutdown less than two weeks before Christmas.

A government shutdown during a pandemic? This does not sound good.

This is not the case. So Washington had better get down to business – and quickly.

So who owns the decision?

This is the problem – everyone’s problem. The House of Representatives – where Democrats are in the majority – passes the stimulus bill first.

The bill then passes through the Senate, where Republicans currently hold control. And then it will have to be signed by outgoing President Trump, who has less than two months in office.

For his part, Democratic President-elect Joe Biden has made it clear that he wants as much emergency aid as possible – but many struggling businesses and families cannot wait for help until he does take it. his duties on January 20.

It is estimated that 30 to 40 million people could lose their homes if nothing is done before a federal moratorium on evictions expires on December 31 [File: Leah Millis/Reuters]

What’s at stake?

In the balance, more than 10 million Americans are unemployed and the 30 to 40 million who could be evicted when a moratorium expires at the end of the year, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

Families have struggled to put food on the table since the start of the pandemic. Feeding America, the country’s largest anti-hunger organization, said its network of national food banks had distributed about 4.2 billion meals since March 1.

So, while politicians are fighting, ordinary people are stuck in limbo. The United States is already seeing an upsurge in COVID-19 infections, and experts warn mass deportations could help spread the coronavirus. If that weren’t enough, a post-vacation default on credit card debt could cause the financial markets to spiral.

If it’s so serious, why can’t politicians be nice?

That’s a great question – and maybe one for Santa Claus.