WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Congress prepares to vote on a COVID-19 relief package late Monday, which includes direct payments to Americans struggling with the dire economic consequences of a pandemic that has killed more than 315,000 and infected more than 17.5 million.
After months of stalemates on negotiations on an urgently needed relief bill, Republicans and Democrats finally agreed on a $900 billion package, which includes $300 per week in addition to regular unemployment benefits and a one-time check of $600 for Americans making under $75,000.
The bill would come months after the last time Americans saw real relief from their government, even as the virus continued to decimate the economic prospects of millions.
This is why many, including Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), have said the paltry size of economic aid is mostly an insult to working class Americans, especially at a time where people line up at food banks while the country’s richest companies collect record profits.
885,000 people filed new claims for unemployment recently, the most since last summer, and 8 million Americans have been pushed into poverty.
Last Friday, Sanders took to the Senate floor to call the new package “totally inadequate given the nature of the unprecedented crises that we face.”
“The American people cannot wait any longer,” Sander said. “They need economic relief right now. Their kids are going hungry. They are being evicted from their homes. They can’t go to the doctor. They need help and they need it now. Every working-class American needs $1,200 at least, $2,400 for couples and $500 for children.”
It has been nine months since the last time the federal government released an aid package, which included a round of $1,200 checks. Unemployment benefits ran out in July. The virus, of course, has not slowed down since then.
At a time of massive income and wealth inequality… at a time when huge corporations were making record breaking profits, the Republican leadership here in the Senate was able to provide over $1 trillion in tax breaks to the 1 percent and large corporations — Sen. Bernie Sanders
“For nine months, we have asked tens of millions of working people in this country to survive on one $1,200 check, with no help for healthcare, no support for hazard pay, no assistance for rent relief — absolutely nothing,” Sander said. “Meanwhile, I should mention that over the same nine month period, 651 billionaires in the United States became over $1 trillion richer.”
Months ago, Sander introduced legislation, along with Senator and now Vice President-elect Kamala Harris (D-CA), that would have provided $2,000 a month to every “working-class person” in the U.S.
“And, frankly, that is exactly what we should be doing,” Sanders said on Friday. “But, unfortunately, given the conservative nature of the Senate, I understand that is not going to happen. Yet, at a time of massive income and wealth inequality… at a time when huge corporations were making record breaking profits, the Republican leadership here in the Senate was able to provide over $1 trillion in tax breaks to the 1 percent and large corporations.”
Sanders also talked of Congress’ approval of a $740 billion military budget, which saw overwhelming support from Democrats, the largest military budget in history, more than the next 10 nations combined.
“We spend more on the military than the next 10 nations combined,” Sanders said. “So we could do all of those things — tax breaks for billionaires, massive corporate welfare, huge military expenditures — but in the midst of the worst economic meltdown since the Great Depression, somehow Congress is unable to respond effectively to the needs of working families.”