Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) on Dec. 10 came together to push for an amendment that would provide a second round of stimulus checks in an effort to help those Americans who are struggling and unemployed due to the worsening CCP virus pandemic.
In an unlikely alliance, both senators on Thursday said the check should mirror those passed by Congress unanimously in the $2.2 trillion CARES Act in March, which was signed into law by President Donald Trump, at a point when the pandemic was less severe than it is now.
During separate speeches, Sanders and Hawley called for a second round of $1,200 in direct payments to working-class adults who make $75,000 or less annually, $2,400 to couples who make $150,000 or less, and $500 to non-dependent children.
The senators want to force a vote on their proposal as part of the stopgap spending bill that must pass through Congress by midnight on Friday, Dec. 18. to prevent a government shutdown, as Congress struggles to reach a deal on a comprehensive relief package.
The current proposal from the White House is a $916 billion package involving $320 billion for aid to businesses; $160 billion in aid for state and local governments; $150 billion for unemployment insurance; $30 billion for airlines; and $16 billion for vaccine distribution and testing. The proposal included $600 stimulus checks but the offer was rejected by Democrats because it included no added federal unemployment assistance.
A bipartisan group of senators is working to draft a $908 billion coronavirus relief bill that includes a $300 weekly boost to unemployment insurance benefits for 16 weeks, through the end of April, $160 billion in state and local funding, $300 billion for small businesses and a liability shield for employers from coronavirus claims but lacks individual stimulus checks.
However, it is unclear if it will pass through Congress.
“In the midst of this terrible pandemic and economic crisis, this amendment would make certain that working families get the urgent, direct support they need to survive,” Sanders said.
“A direct payment of $1,200 for adults and $500 for kids would help desperate families pay rent and heating bills, put food on the table, and be able to go to the doctor. In the midst of so much economic desperation, Congress cannot go on recess without providing this $1,200 emergency assistance to the American people in their time of need. I look forward to working across the aisle with Senator Hawley to ensure that the United States Senate passes this amendment.”
Hawley said it would be a “dereliction of duty if Congress adjourns for Christmas without having a vote on providing working families with direct payments,” adding that, “Working people are struggling. And they should be the first people given relief, not last.”
“The crisis of rising unemployment claims, ever-expanding food lines, evictions, and growing credit card debt has been staring us in the face for months. It’s time we do something about it and provide emergency relief to Americans.”
On Thursday, a report from the Labor Department showed nearly 1.4 million new unemployment claims filed just last week by Americans who hadn’t done so before.
Roughly 950,000 applied for traditional state unemployment insurance. Another 428,000 sought Pandemic Unemployment Assistance which provides payment to workers not traditionally eligible for unemployment benefits, such as those who are self-employed, independent contractors, or have a limited work history.
The CCP virus pandemic has seen cases skyrocket in recent weeks, surpassing those seen early in the health crisis. According to the latest figures from Johns Hopkins University, more than 292,000 Americans have died of COVID-19 so far, while the virus accounts for 1.58 million deaths worldwide.