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COVID aid not nearly enough for struggling families, businesses

It’s great to have some federal relief for Americans dealing with the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic, but the $900 billion relief bill Congress sent to the president to sign this week falls short — too short — of what residents, schools, businesses, and local and state governments actually need to deal with the crisis.

Congress passed the CARES Act with more than $2 trillion in aid to Americans on March 27, just after the pandemic was declared and while cases of COVID-19 across New York and the rest of the United States were spreading rapidly. It included direct payments of up to $1,200 per adult for individuals whose income was less than $99,000. It established the Paycheck Protection Program for small businesses. It also provided an additional $600 per week to people collecting regular unemployment compensation.

Since then, we’ve had other COVID surges, including a new one during the holidays. Yet it’s taken more than seven months for the Republican-controlled Senate and the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives to agree on a new relief package for Americans. On May 15, the House passed a $3 trillion relief bill that included help for state and local governments, workers and families. The Senate didn’t agree. So, while millions of people have suffered, we finally have a relief package that doesn’t offer much relief.

It establishes a $600 direct payment to most Americans and a temporary $300 per week supplemental jobless benefit. Plus, there is a new round of subsidies for hard-hit businesses, restaurants and theaters and money for schools, health care providers and renters facing eviction.

The aid will not be a stimulus, as many politicians call it, and it will only offer temporary relief for many families and small businesses. The extra money may only go toward necessities such as rent, food, heating homes and debt that has piled up over the months of inaction from Congress.

We hope a new, more realistic relief package will come soon after President-elect Joe Biden takes office on Jan. 20. Yet, if the Republicans still hold control of the Senate after the run-off election in Georgia on Jan. 5, there’s no telling whether there will ever be another relief package.

Even with vaccines being distributed, this pandemic won’t be over for a long time. Here’s hoping Senate Republicans come to their senses in 2021 and stop playing politics with people’s lives.

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