The CARES Act Crisis: Americans Need Aid Now

The Democratic opposition to CARES Act has to do with when and how to distribute aid to millions of Americans during and because of the Coronavirus crisis.

The CARES Act Crisis: Americans Need Aid Now

On both sides of the aisle, none of the Senators can come to an agreement on what to do about the Coronavirus relief act, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (the CARES Act) proposed by the Republicans. The relief is coming, but for many people not fast enough; an argument coming from both sides of the aisle. Democrats argue that the current bill up in the Senate, produced by Republicans, “round three” as they call it (round one and two bills passed in the Senate already, including the Families First Coronavirus Response Act), does not produce enough aid for hospitals and individual workers, but rather focuses on providing economic relief in the form of aid to large corporations that have been hurt by the state shut downs of “non-essential businesses” as well as the general slowdown in spending due to uncertainty and social distancing. 

The big difference between the proposal of the Democrats and the proposal of the Republicans is that the Democratic proposal gives monthly payments, while the Republicans do not specify when people will receive aid at a time when they need it the most. There is such a large amount of turmoil surrounding the bill because Democrats, and most people, feel that in such dire circumstances citizens of the U.S. require monthly payments rather than the unspecified timing of tax rebates the Republicans have proposed.

Republicans say the bill does provide for hospitals and individuals and is a straightforward and comprehensive aid package that will help the economy as well as the people who need help. They argue that Democrats are holding up this aid by trying to alter its content and add unrelated provisions. If Democrats cannot agree with Republicans, then it is Democrats that are failing the people and the country by delaying the aid package. These are the arguments going on in the Senate chamber as of five in the afternoon on Monday, March 23rd. It all depends on where, when and how the money should be allocated, but with an unprecedented two trillion dollars there should be a way to do it all: help the economy, hospitals and health care providers and the people who will lose their jobs and/or contract the virus.

The CARES Act

Republicans would rather stimulate corporations and the economy to create new jobs and keep the jobs already here. There are horrible stories, across the country, of employers who need to lay workers off because they have no other choice. The toll the quarantine is taking on families, and companies, big, small, and somewhere in between, is intense. In the Republican led bill, small businesses with less than five hundred employees can apply for fee free loans of up to ten million dollars. If these businesses keep their employees and payroll levels from March 1st, 2020 until June 30th, 2020, there is forgiveness for pre-existing debt and meeting current payroll.

Anyone working at a company receiving one of these loans cannot receive a raise if they make over four hundred and twenty-five thousand dollars a year, though some executives may be exempt if their company decides their salary through collective bargaining. Encouraging employers to keep the staff they already have will help many people. There are also industry specific loan guarantees, a total of two hundred and eight billion, fifty billion for airlines, eight billion for cargo carriers, one hundred and fifty billion for “unnamed businesses”. The government can also take part in the “gains” of those companies, if any.

What makes the Republican bill objectionable to Democrats, is that it proposes rebate checks, rather than monthly payments.

The bill also includes cash payments in the form of tax rebates of as much as one thousand two hundred dollars per person, plus an added five hundred dollars per child. For gross income of less than seventy-five thousand dollars as of 2018 tax returns, individuals will receive full payment under the bill. Payments decrease by five dollars for every one hundred dollars over that seventy-five thousand dollars. There are no benefits for individuals earning ninety-nine thousand dollars or more. For those making two thousand five hundred dollars or less, people with no federal tax liability, the six hundred dollars per individual proposed by the Republicans goes a long way in a place like Montana, where the cost of living is low. However, in urban centers like Los Angeles or New York, it does not begin to cover even one month’s worth of expenses for low-income families.

What makes the Republican bill objectionable to Democrats, however, is that it proposes rebate checks, rather than monthly payments, which the government would give out “as rapidly as possible” but there is no guarantee on when people will receive aid.

However, according to the Senate Finance Committee Chair, Chares Grassley (R-IA), “these recommendations take bold steps to curb the economic fallout as we work as a country to contain this pandemic. These recommendations will not be the end of the congressional response to the Coronavirus”.

 

The Democratic ‘Take Responsibility For Workers And Families’ Act As An Alternative

The Republicans’ bill does not include enough for the understaffed, under-resourced, and underfunded medical community, or individuals who are suffering, according to Democrats. However, the Democrat’s bill does agree with a lot of what is in the Republican bill but adds a lot of “wishful thinking” into a one-thousand-page long proposal.

In the Democrat’s bill, there is a part that says “the Secretary shall purchase high polluting aircraft from air carriers in exchange for commitments from such air carriers to purchase fuel-efficient aircraft”, which has nothing to do with the Coronavirus. There are multiple other provisions in the bill such as relief of postal service debt, improving corporate governance through diversity, fifteen dollars an hour minimum wage, and same-day registration, to name a few. 

Some of the bill is useful, however: preventing corporations from using taxpayer money for stock buybacks, stimulate unemployment insurance with generous unemployment benefits for laid-off workers, more funding for hospitals, strengthening child and earned income tax credit, providing assurance that individuals’ jobs receive protection, and injecting forty billion into schools and Universities. It also grants individual states the funding to carry out this year’s elections, which may be a risky and unadvised course of action given the current climate. Even the useful provisions would take the bill's total cost to above two trillion.

The Democrats’ bill includes too much, according to Republicans. The bill proposed by Democrats addresses more individualistic concerns and provides more funds for healthcare workers and supplies them with enough ventilators, masks, gloves, and other medical supplies that some area hospitals must do without due to panic buying. However, the Democrats are also trying to sneak stuff into their bill that has nothing to do with the crisis.

Donald Trump already waived student loan payments and mortgage payments, and there is a delay in the filing of taxes until July 15th, 2020, at which point all taxes owed will be due. It is not as if anyone in the government, especially the Democrats, are not taking this crisis seriously. Clearly, they know this bill of theirs is not going to pass the Senate, but what is their goal? Compromise, debate, during a crisis? It is hard to say. Is this truly the “ideological agenda” the Republicans claim it is? Basic human rights, for many, are not an ideological agenda. What is not an ideological agenda, however, is U.S. citizens receiving guaranteed monthly payments right now when they need it the most, which the Democratically proposed bill includes.

Regardless of anyone’s stance on the issues the Democrats bring up in their thousand-page bill, people need relief, now, and on a guaranteed monthly basis. The reason there is a holdup has nothing to do with Democrats not wanting to help the people or partisanship, but an attempt to get aid to people as quickly and comprehensively as possible.

There is a shortage of testing kits, so much so that there is now a new recommendation that people do not go to the hospital or go for testing unless they cannot breathe. People are struggling, losing their jobs, and unsure about how they will make it through the year.

Clearly, the Senate needs to produce a result during this crisis, one that helps people; whichever approach works the best, one each side can live with, implement it as fast as possible. The people of the United States need help as they struggle to survive in this new normal. They are in urgent need of care from hospitals and healthcare workers and they are worried about how they will survive as the quarantines and shutdowns continue. They need aid now, but as of March 23rd, 2020 there is no sign of an agreement between Republicans and Democrats, even as every moment passes the Coronavirus takes its toll on the population.

Related: The Most Expensive Relief Package In U.S. History

Related: Anthony Scaramucci Proposes A Historic $3.2 Trillion "Wartime" Stimulus To Save America

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