It has been over a year since COVID-19 was first discovered in Wuhan, China. In the time since, the world has been bogged down fighting the pandemic. With over 450,000 deaths in the United States alone, by the time the pandemic ends, the U.S. could easily be approaching 600,000 deaths. The economic toll on the country has been catastrophic. Millions of people have been furloughed, had their hours cut or were fired outright, including a disproportionate number of Black and Latino people. In response to this, in late March of 2020, Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act nearly unanimously. With a price tag of around $1 trillion, the CARES act provided enhanced unemployment insurance to workers who had lost their jobs. Additionally, $1,200 checks were provided to millions of people across the country. While the CARES Act had many flaws (as U.S. social safety nets generally do), it helped lessen the burden for many workers struggling since the start of the pandemic. The stabilization of poverty rates in the United States after the act was passed is proof of this.
The CARES act was one of the best pieces of legislation to be passed by the United States in many years, but it was not perfect. Leaving adult dependents out of stimulus checks was one issue. Furthermore, complex bureaucratic hurdles made accessing relief for many workers difficult or even impossible. In Virginia, thousands of people report that it is nearly impossible to contact the Virginia Economic Commission, the organization responsible for handling unemployment claims. Across the country, workers have reported similar experiences as unemployment offices were not ready to handle the vast number of claims that would come through as the pandemic began wreaking havoc across the country.
Due to the economic hardships faced by millions of Americans, a new stimulus package is being debated in Congress. It includes billions in both unemployment assistance as well as money for other overlooked sectors that were hit by the pandemic. For example, it includes $160 billion to accelerate the national vaccination program, billions of dollars to help schools reopen and loans and grants to state, local and tribal governments who have had their yearly tax revenues slashed by the pandemic. Additionally, it provides a moratorium on evictions through September. It would also provide more money for parents with children: up to $3,600 a month for children under 6 and $3,000 a month for children between the ages of 6 and 17.
This stimulus package is also different because of its inclusion of adult dependents. The CARES Act had many flaws, one being its exclusion of adult dependents from receiving the $1,200 check. Under Biden’s plan, adult dependents, many of whom are college students who lost job opportunities, would receive a stimulus check that could help to lessen the fiscal strain many of us are experiencing. Likewise, the enhanced unemployment insurance would be exceptionally beneficial to those of us who may lose our jobs in the coming days because of the pandemic. Finally, the national vaccination program money would ensure that we get vaccines faster, which means we could return to normal life much sooner. However, there is now the issue of the new COVID-19 strains spreading throughout the United Kingdom, South Africa and Brazil. This is why a nationwide effort to disseminate vaccines is necessary. For every person vaccinated, that is one less person with potential for spreading these newer, possibly deadlier mutations.
Ultimately, the new stimulus package is not simply money for the unemployed. With it, we may finally be able to work through the burden the pandemic has placed on our lives. It's the money necessary for a strong recovery and health plan when the pandemic eventually ends. While not perfect, it is more than adequate for the moment. It is imperative that Congress passes this stimulus.