House democrats are rushing to put forth a relief bill for the ongoing economic havoc caused by the novel coronavirus. Congress has already authorized several relief bills, but only one previously granted funds directly to citizens. Other relief bills have been aimed at businesses and state governments, as well as healthcare providers.
The newest bill democrats unveiled Tuesday would allocate some $3 trillion in relief money. However, republicans, who have the majority in the Senate, are unlikely to sign off on any further spending. As the pandemic has worn on, republicans have soured on the idea of spending more federal funds on virus relief.
The bill unveiled Tuesday would include another round of $1,200 payments to most Americans. This would be welcomed by the millions of people who have been rendered jobless thanks to the virus’s impact on the economy. The bill would also provide $1 trillion in relief money for state and local governments that are struggling with the virus.
Critically, the bill would include $75 billion in funding to ramp up testing and tracing efforts. Most medical experts agree that robust testing and full-scale contact tracing are pivotal to reopen the economy. Short of a vaccine, these are likely the path forward out of the pandemic, according to medical experts. The bill would also include money for essential workers to receive increased hazard pay.
Further, the bill would extend the unemployment benefits included in the CARES Act through January. Presently, that extra $600 per week is to expire in July.
While democrats could likely pass the bill through the House, where they are the majority, it is unlikely the bill passes the Senate. Republicans, who have largely grown tired of federal spending for the virus, will likely vote the bill down. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has indicated that he is uninterested in authorizing more spending.
Democrats argue that the bill is pivotal, as the US is staring down unemployment rates rivalled only by the Great Depression. At the same time, the virus, which has slowed, is still present in every state in the US. This means that efforts to reopen the economy come with the risk of causing secondary spikes of infection.
McConnell told reporters on Monday that he didn’t think “we have yet felt the urgency of acting immediately.” The Senate Majority leader added “that time could develop, but I don’t think it has yet.” In the US, COVID-19 has led to some 1.3 million infections and over 80,000 deaths.