Not disinfected: what’s in the last chance for relief from COVID

First response

We are now four days away from a self-imposed congressional deadline adopt an omnibus spending program that will fund the government until next September, with the last train leaving the station for COVID-19 relief this year. Yesterday, the bipartisan group “908 Group” or “Gang of Eight” or “New York Dolls” or whatever nickname they gave themselves finally released, on December 14, the very text of their agreement on the plan. rescue. This will be discussed in the media as a $ 908 billion package, but it certainly isn’t; it’s $ 748 billion in the part that counts, the part that really has a chance to pass.

A contentious issue was a corporate responsibility shield for negligence in exposing customers or employees to the virus. We actually have text on it and it’s much worse, keep the McConnell / Cornyn Provisions this would block legal action against a host of employment laws such as the Federal Labor Standards Act, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the WARN Act. , which warns workers before dismissing. This would also allow the Department of Justice to sue lawyers who seek information from employers on exposure to COVID.

The point is, only Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) ultimately accepted this language. It is not enough to pass a bill. So they packed it up with something Democrats had to sacrifice: $ 160 billion in national and local tax assistance, ridiculed as a “blue state bailout” by Mitch McConnell but in reality a desperately important move to prevent long-lasting austerity that will reverse the efforts of the federal government. level towards economic recovery.

These two elements are put in a bill separate from all the rest. The state and local aid and liability shield bill is designed not to pass. So as bad as liability protection is, it is also irrelevant. It will not become law in this Congress.

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Then let’s move on to the part that has the potential to pass. I only say “potential” because there is no definitive answer as to whether the Democrats will agree to something without state and local aid, although they certainly speak as they will. The fact that there is a second bill may allow them to say that they were for but simply outvoted. It looks like Republicans will be backing the $ 748 billion package as well, at least in numbers enough to get it through, but again, there’s no clarity here. I have to say that splitting the bills was McConnell’s idea, so it’s likely he’ll put him to the floor with enough votes on his side to back him if the Democrats agree.

The bill includes the bonus of $ 300 / week for all forms of unemployment benefits for 16 weeks. It also extends the two expiring programs by 16 weeks, one for workers and freelancers, the other for extended benefits. No retroactive benefit is granted. The bill renews the paycheck protection program with $ 300 billion for small businesses, including more money for the Economic Disaster Loan Program (EIDL) and a second draw for those who have already received a forgivable loan. (This part, moreover, allows 501 (c) (6) organizations to obtain PPP loans: this includes chambers of commerce, chambers of commerce and other “trade leagues”.)

There is $ 82 billion for schools; $ 45 billion for transportation (of which I believe the majority goes to airlines); $ 35 billion for health care providers; $ 25 billion for rent assistance and an extension of the moratorium on evictions until January 31 (when the new president can extend the current moratorium through executive action); $ 16 billion for the costs of vaccination, testing and tracing (a incredibly low number); $ 13 billion for farmers and fisheries; $ 13 billion for improved nutritional assistance and food bank funding; $ 12 billion in low income community grants; $ 10 billion for child care providers; $ 10 billion for the deployment of broadband (a good long-term investment but confusing in an emergency bill); the cancellation of a $ 10 billion loan to the US Postal Service; $ 5 billion in emergency drug abuse prevention; an extension of the forbearance of student loans until April; and the extension of an obscure provision of the CARES law which allows defense contractors, alone among all professions, get paid not to work.

The bill is partially “paid” with $ 430 billion from the Treasury / Federal Reserve’s “money cannon” and $ 130 billion remaining from the previous PPP. This means that there is only $ 188 billion in “new money”, but it really is an accounting gimmick. The old money was not being used and most of it was spent on corporate bonds. You could stretch yourself out and say that some could have gone to state and local governments in the form of loans from the Fed, but the Fed has the power to grant these loans under its own authority at present, and should be compelled to do so.

This bill is more than what McConnell has proposed before, by my calculations. (The HEALS law, which had nominally more spending, understood the poison pills liability shield, and as such, it was not a serious effort. He also did not even have enough support among the Republicans for McConnell to pass it; his possible “lean” invoice was $ 650 billion.) It fills a number of gaps with insufficient but still existing funds. If you want to be mad, be mad that we are in the midst of a historic and local budget crisis, with more burdens placed on these governments due to vaccination costs — only one of which part would be covered by this bill — and the federal government has yet to allocate a dollar to cover these deficits. This will have lasting effects, delaying economic growth in 2021 with local austerity.

Whether the Democrats take what’s left depends on how the situation unfolds. The one-time stimulus checks of $ 1,200 – a quarter of the total value of 16-week enhanced unemployment – are not part of the bill, and Bernie Sanders, among others, is lobby for their inclusion. If the cost of the bipartisan bill were an upper limit, you could probably get back to $ 160 billion in checks by substituting them for state and local funding. However, they would be fairly means-tested at that number. And the Conservatives could back out if additional costs are added, in which case you exchange checks for something else.

Sanders is rejection request of the package, claiming that going from the $ 3.4 trillion Heroes Act to $ 188 billion in new money is “a meltdown” for Democratic negotiators. Remember that the dice were cast on this in March. Republicans got the corporate bailout they wanted and shied away from any further relief. Democrats were forced to negotiate with themselves because they did not provide relief in the original package for the duration of the national emergency, and it predictably ran out. The failure was present at the start. The “negotiations” since have been scenic. It was only the threat that Republicans would lose the Senate in Georgia that pushed them to go even further.

So Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer blew it up, but they blew it up a long time ago, in the first CARES Act that everyone supported, including Sanders. He can blame himself a bit for that, actually.

Days without bailout oversight chair


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