As the 116th Congress enters its final weeks, I have a suggestion for House and Senate leaders: Take a break from nonstop politics and focus on the needs of the country. On Tuesday a bipartisan and bicameral group of legislators proposed a $908 billion emergency Covid relief package to get the American people through a difficult winter. Leadership should take up this bill immediately.
Thanks to the accelerated development of safe and effective vaccines, for which the Trump administration deserves substantial credit, there is reason to hope that the economy and society will have moved substantially toward normal by next summer. The task right now is to help as many Americans as possible navigate the intervening months with their lives and livelihoods intact.
In the early weeks of the pandemic, Congress came together to pass the Cares Act, which provided vital assistance to unemployed Americans, small businesses and state and local institutions. Without this legislation, many millions would have been left destitute and entire categories of businesses would have been decimated.
Unfortunately, many important provisions of this law will lapse at the end of the year, and negotiations among the White House and leaders in the Senate and House have stalled. Meanwhile, more than 10 million Americans soon face the loss of unemployment benefits and health insurance. Millions of others face the threat of eviction from their homes in the new year. Some 26 million Americans reported not having enough to eat during the past week. In cities across the nation, lines stretch at food banks struggling to find the resources and volunteers to meet the demand.
Without further assistance, tens of thousands of small businesses will soon be forced to close their doors for good. Schools will be unable to reopen because they lack tests, protective equipment and updated ventilation systems. Hospitals face shortages of beds, equipment and trained staff, even as they absorb billions of dollars in uncompensated care. With case spiking yet again, patients could soon be dying in hospital corridors, as they did in the spring. In the aftermath of the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday, the situation could turn even worse.