Washington, DC – It is encouraging to see Congress and the Biden administration engaging in discussions on broad-based stimulus and investment strategies. The complex and multiple challenges facing our nation demand comprehensive solutions. However, the surging pandemic and resulting economic instability are clear and present dangers that must be addressed immediately. Pursuing a divisive approach to COVID-19 relief will only worsen the immediate crisis.
The Bipartisan Policy Center urges Congress to seize the opportunity for consensus on a roughly $1 trillion package to: 1) accelerate vaccination, testing, and other means to combat the virus, 2) ensure our citizens are not homeless and hungry, and 3) provide the basic support people need to either remain working or get back to work.
The urgent need for these programs should not require explanation, and each has received bipartisan support in prior emergency legislative packages. American lives are literally at stake. A congressional demonstration of collaborative competence would go a long way toward rebuilding trust in the institution and helping the nation through the challenging months ahead.
The following is a package with those core pieces, along with rough cost estimates:
- Accelerate the COVID-19 public health response to reduce viral transmission and save lives by expanding access to vaccines and testing, building a public health workforce, and providing funds to local K-12 systems to help keep them open, when possible ($200 billion).
- Deliver another round of direct payments, but ensure that the $1,400 per person is better targeted by starting the phase-outs at $50,000 and $100,000 for singles and married households, respectively, and accelerating the phase-out rate ($375 billion*).
- *Estimate produced in consultation with the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget
- Renew pandemic unemployment insurance programs through September, including extending weeks of eligibility, the $300 weekly benefit supplement, and the short-term compensation program. Also, ensure states have sufficient funding and accountability metrics to cut down on fraud ($275 billion).
- Support state and local governments and prevent public sector layoffs by providing additional resources, with the recognition that more may be necessary depending on how the recovery progresses ($100 billion).
- Provide flexible housing and utility bill assistance to support struggling renters, homeowners, and small landlords to prevent a wave of evictions and foreclosures ($30 billion).
- Provide further direct support to child care businesses and their staff, enabling them to keep their doors open through and after the crisis ($16 billion in addition to the $10 billion down payment made in the end of year agreement).
- Extend the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefit increase through September to help mitigate widespread food insecurity ($5 billion).
- Provide additional support to the hardest-hit small businesses to help them make it through the worst of the pandemic ($15 billion).
- Restore and expand the emergency paid sick and family leave program to cover more Americans and help those caring for new babies, children, and adult dependents ($20 billion).