COVID-19 has ravaged the United States in ways that none of us could have foreseen. There are over 200,000 people dead with current estimates showing that we could hit 400,000 deaths by the end of the year.
The US also has the largest number of cases in the world and has seen a sudden spike in recent weeks. But it’s the economic impact of the virus that seems to have thrown the entire country in turmoil. As we speak, millions of Americans are out of work with many small businesses already under.
The federal government has worked on two stimulus packages designed to cushion the American public against the economic devastation of the pandemic. But so far, the latest much-needed COVID-19 stimulus package has hit a snag. The White House had earlier indicated that it will be pulling out of any negotiations with Democrats but the president reversed course just a few days later.
But why is it so hard for Republicans and Democrats in Congress to agree on a deal? After all, both parties agree that economic relief is urgently needed around the country. They only differ in the modalities of delivering that assistance. Well, we actually looked at the negotiations going on at the Capitol and identified several key areas of contention.
The first one is the cost. The Democrat-led plan would see a stimulus package of around $2.2 trillion while the White House has indicated it’s only ready to go as far as $1.8 trillion. There’s also a lot of disagreement on just how much money Americans should get in federal assistance.
Initially, the Senate passed a $600 stipend in unemployment benefits for Americans out of work. But Senate republicans and the White House want to push that down to $400. Democrats have made it clear that they won’t back down on this and it could be one of those things that make any bipartisan bill a bridge too far.
We also know that the GOP isn’t willing to spend money on increased coronavirus testing. Democrats have said that any safe reopening of the economy has to be backed by rapid testing and contact tracing. They are hoping that any funding for such an ambitious plan should come inside the Coronavirus relief. But the White House insists that there’s enough funding so far for testing and contact tracing.
Republicans will also not agree to bail out states. Democrats had proposed up to $436 billion in state bailouts but the GOP has made it clear that it won’t bail out “badly run blue states.”
There’s also the issue of childcare. Democrats want the federal government to include $57 billion in childcare assistance as part of the bill but the White House doesn’t intend to include any such plan. It’s unlikely these issues will be resolved before the election but even then, a lot of Americans are hurting as they await Congress to act.