I don’t think anyone thought a one-time $1,200 check and an extra $600 in unemployment benefits would serve as long-term relief for working-class Americans. Last month, Texas had an unemployment rate of 8.3 percent, up from 6.8 percent in August. Compounding the problem, the additional $600 benefits for the unemployed expired at the end of July. Many Texans did not qualify for additional extended benefits, indicating the problem isn’t going away for our state anytime soon. Considering 70 percent of Americans support an additional round of stimulus checks, we’re left wondering why our politicians have left us floundering.
To put the first stimulus package into perspective, let’s look at how it would affect an average college student: me. Since I’m a dependent, I didn’t receive a stimulus check in March. Even if I had, the $1,200 the CARES Act provided would have barely covered two months of my rent, let alone utilities and groceries. (Keep in mind, 120 million Americans also have credit card debt and 107 million need to make car payments as well).
The stimulus checks are by no means a long-term solution — few people will last for more than a month on $1,200. However, when over 40 million Americans are facing evictions, it is clear the public needs relief and they need it now.
Thankfully, both Democrats and Republicans believe the American people need additional economic relief. What bamboozles me, however, is the fact that they haven’t been able to pass another stimulus bill for months. It seems that even when we overwhelmingly agree on something in this country, we still can’t do anything about it.
Much of the disagreement between the two parties stems from how much money each respective side is willing to provide. The White House is willing to offer $1.9 trillion, but Democrats are pushing for a $2.2 trillion dollar package. Their bill would reinstate the weekly $600 extra unemployment benefits, provide another round of $1,200 checks and provide billions to state and local governments. Their bill would also refund the Paycheck Protection Program, a loan which supports struggling small businesses. Lastly, Democrats want to inject over $200 billion into the education system and child care programs.
GOP Senators, however, are only willing to consider a $500 billion package, about a quarter of what both Democrats and Trump are considering. Their bill would refund the Paycheck Protection Program. Moreover, it would provide an additional $300 per week in unemployment benefits but would not include more stimulus checks.
Furthermore, Mitch McConnell hasn’t given a timeframe for a vote on the Senate floor if House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and President Donald Trump reach a deal. As such, there is the potential a vote wouldn’t occur for over a month even if Democrats and Republicans reach a consensus.
For several days, the Senate has been embroiled in Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation hearings, her final confirmation vote slated for Monday. Deciding who should succeed the notorious RBG is one of the senate’s most significant responsibilities. However, Senate Republicans also left Antonin Scalia’s seat open for a record 422 days to block Merrick Garland. They can afford to delay Barrett’s confirmation for a few weeks — citizens’ needs should always come before politics.
McConnell has supposedly stated he wants Trump to avoid striking a deal with Democrats ahead of the election. He is concerned working on a new stimulus package would detract from time for Republicans to campaign and create significant cracks within the party ahead of election day. GOP Senators shouldn’t be opposed to funding more stimulus checks. Almost two thirds of Republicans support a second wave of $1,200 checks, indicating the GOP is again more concerned with consolidating than representing their constituents.
It’s clear the desire to maintain political dominance has superseded both the will and needs of the American people for McConnell. If we want to help other Texans avoid evictions and afford basic needs, we need to pressure Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz to start focusing more on hammering out a stimulus package. Many people in our state cannot afford to wait until after the election for additional relief, and we need to act soon to ameliorate their suffering.
Caleb Powell is a biomedical engineering sophomore and columnist for The Battalion. His column is typically published online every other Wednesday when not in the Thursday newspaper.