Washington, D.C. — Tonight, both houses of Congress passed a $900 billion COVID-19 relief package. Following the passage of the bill, Winnie Stachelberg, executive vice president for External Affairs at the Center for American Progress, issued the following statement:
The relief package passed by both houses of Congress tonight will undoubtedly save lives, businesses, and jobs. Importantly, it includes protections for people who were on the brink of eviction in the dead of winter; enhanced unemployment insurance for hundreds of thousands of Americans who have lost their jobs; direct relief checks that will, for the first time, be sent to mixed-immigration status families; and money to distribute the vaccines that will ultimately put an end to this crisis.
Tonight’s bill marks an important step in addressing the crisis. But it is not enough to see the country to the other side of a once-in-a-century economic and public health crisis. Many cities and states are still facing major budget shortfalls that will cost essential public servants their jobs and slow down an eventual economic recovery. More unemployment insurance and other economic aid is also needed to help struggling people pay their bills. And while the bill does include some funding for paid leave, it will not reach many workers. Every American deserves the security of guaranteed access to paid leave in the middle of a pandemic.
For months, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and their progressive allies have worked toward a relief package that would address the needs of the American people. The House has twice passed substantial relief bills, and Speaker Pelosi has also repeatedly sought to find a compromise on relief with the Trump administration. These efforts stand in sharp contrast to the indifference and obstructionism by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and his allies through most of this year. Their inaction has undoubtedly cost countless Americans their lives and their livelihoods. We will never know how many empty chairs at holiday tables might still be filled, or how many newly unemployed parents would not have had to explain to their children that there’s no money for gifts or a holiday meal this year, had Leader McConnell and his allies worked in earnest toward a substantial relief package seven months ago.
Let us hope that the passage of this bill marks a turning point for legislative action on COVID-19 relief . With the news that the first Americans received their vaccines this week, there exists the possibility that next December could be much brighter than this one. But between now and then, we may still lose hundreds of thousands of Americans to COVID-19 and see millions more lose their jobs. This is a policy choice; disastrous outcomes are avoidable. To effectively prevent unimaginable harm in 2021, the federal government should provide substantial public health and economic relief for the duration of the crisis. It is essential that Leader McConnell and his allies do not repeat their deadly mistakes of 2020, but rather work in good faith with Leader Schumer, Speaker Pelosi, and the incoming Biden administration on continued COVID relief, so the tragedies of 2020 do not continue for years to come.