Media reports say the new coronavirus stimulus package could be passed by the Congress already next week, but Republicans and Democrats still disagree on a number of issues, which could extend talks at a time when millions of Americans are in dire need of financial assistance.
What are the main differences?
The Size of Aid
Democrats insist that that the $600-per-week federal unemployment insurance benefit, which expired on 31 July, should get a long-term extension. Republicans believe it should be extended into December and want to cut it to $400.
What’s interesting is that there is disagreement on this issue among Republicans. Some of them are ready to support the Democrats, but others, like senator Ted Cruz, fear another aid package worth trillions of dollars would add to the country’s national debt, which has soared to $26 trillion. Cruz and other Republicans insist that it would be better for the United States to reopen the economy.
In addition, the Trump administration claimed that the amount of money jobless Americans have already received was generous and discouraged many from returning to work even after safety restrictions had been lifted.
Aid to State and Local Governments
Due to the unprecedented economic slowdown, many state and local governments have experienced a dramatic fall in tax revenues and as a result their coffers did not receive enough money. Democrats want additional funds for state and local governments. Some of these governments have pension funding gaps and Republicans are not eager to spend billions on officials to help them fix their past financial mistakes.
Aid to US Postal Service
This seemingly simple topic sparked extremely heated debates. The Postal Service had been experiencing economic problems even prior to the coronavirus pandemic and the mass shutdown of businesses turned these problems into a nightmare. Why does it matter? On 3 November, Americans will be choosing their next president and given the severity of the coronavirus pandemic in the country (the United States has the biggest number of infections and continues to record enormous number of cases), many US citizens will be voting by mail.
Democrats initially proposed a $25 billion plan to help the US Postal Service. Republicans pushed back against it and said that the $10 billion loan Congress had previously provided to the Postal Service was enough to help it during the pandemic.
The issue has also become political, as President Donald Trump recently criticized the agency, calling it a joke for not raising package prices and claimed that the upcoming presidential election could be rigged because of mail-in votes.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin voiced hope on 5 August that legislators will be able to reach a compromise on the stimulus package already this Friday, with a potential vote on it next week.