Many Caribbean Americans may have heard an elder relative at some point or other say “a likkle sumting betta dan nutting,” as a reminder to be grateful for what is received, even if we didn’t get everything we hoped for.
This very sensible advice resonates loudly as over the past several months those elected to represent our interests in the U.S. Congress dither and procrastinate over finding a compromise to bring financial help to Americans.
Other than the devastating health effects of COVID-19, it has a debilitating impact on the financial health of American families and businesses. Millions of people have either lost jobs, been furloughed, had their income significantly reduced, are experiencing serious food insecurities, or have the possibility of being evicted from their homes.
Hundreds of businesses, large and small, nationally have been forced to close or reduce their operations as the pandemic persists. Many will never reopen, or may not return to the operational capacity they experienced pre-pandemic.
When the pandemic first impacted the nation in March, the federal government, without much urging, took the initiative to passed the CARES Act providing some $2 trillion to help businesses and residents. Included in the Act was a $1,200 stimulus check for every legal American resident, and a $600 weekly unemployment benefit in addition to the unemployment benefit paid by each state to its residents.
Most people would be disingenuous if they said they were unsurprised by the generous benefits provided under the CARES Act that genuinely assisted those who had lost jobs or had reduced incomes. But there were people who came out way ahead of the game, as they received these benefits even while retaining their jobs, and in some cases benefits, like the $600 federal unemployment benefit, actually exceeded their original weekly income.
Most economists agree in times of financial turndown, it is important that governments take steps to prevent national economic decline by passing legislation to stimulate the economy with an infusion of cash to consumers, so spending will not decline.
There’s evidence the funding provided under the CARES Act did stimulate consumer spending and staved off a potential economic recession. But the legislators did not foresee the reason that necessitated the liberal funding would have extended far beyond July.
Owing to a combination of factors, including blatant mismanagement, incompetence, and stupidity in handling the pandemic, it has persisted and is currently spiking in Florida and elsewhere nationally, escalating financial and economic challenges. As a result, consumers and businesses urgently need federal assistance.
Democrats in the U.S. House passed legislation for an additional $2.2 trillion stimulus bill including financial help for cities, businesses. The bill also included another $1,200 payment to residents and an extension of the $600 weekly federal unemployment benefits. However, the Republican-led Senate stubbornly resisted the bill, while coming up with a bill that offered much less.
There was hope that with the pending November general election, leadership on both sides of the aisle would reach a compromise and offer a sensible stimulus bill to help Americans, but it never materialized.
Post-election analysis indicated that several voters, particularly those in the more financially depressed communities, refused to vote because of the dithering in Congress to extend help to residents and businesses.
As the virus spikes, there is real fear there will not be an early respite to the financial woes it has created. Increasingly, more families are facing food insecurity, termination of special pandemic-related unemployment benefits in Florida and other states at the end of December, and possible evictions in the near future.
Last week, some hope surfaced as Democrats and Republicans in Congress reached compromise on a $908 billion bill. This funding is way below what Democrats initially passed in October, and more than the Republicans proposed, but there are indications agreement could be reached this time.
Amazingly, after several months without federal assistance, there are people who are criticizing the latest bill, since it proposes to provide $300 weekly in unemployment benefits instead of $600, and doesn’t include another $1,200 stimulus check.
It’s important for those who would criticize the bill to realize this is proposed as an urgent relief bill to assist millions of Americans facing financial ruin. President-elect Biden has promised to push for a much larger economic stimulus bill when he takes office in January.
With the dire financial circumstances facing millions of Americans, it’s foolhardy for general support not to be given to this bill proposed by Republicans and Democrats. The benefits proposed certainly will help protect people from starvation and secure their homes. Hard times prove a dollar can stretch much further than it could normally. Like those senior relatives advised, “a likkle sumting betta than nutting” at all.