Getting the most from coronavirus rescue package | Opinion
Target aid to unemployed, businesses and states
Congress needs to buckle down and come up with a coronavirus relief package.
Congress needs to buckle down and come up with a coronavirus relief package.
This article represents the opinion of the Tampa Bay Times Editorial Board.
Published Jul. 30, 2020

Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill remain far apart on their latest rescue plans for the economy, but at least they agree that another substantial relief package is needed in the coming days or weeks. Congress should focus again on helping the hardest-hit and churning money quickly through the nation’s choked economy. That should include a healthy continuation of federal unemployment assistance, payroll subsidies and aid to cash-strapped state and local governments.

Senate Republicans released a $1 trillion plan Monday that would continue supplemental federal unemployment assistance — albeit at a lower amount — and provide another round of direct payments to American families. Under the plan, the $600 per-week unemployment payment that Congress approved as part of its $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief package in March would be reduced to $200. After two months, that lump sum would be replaced by a new formula that would provide jobless workers up to 70 percent of their prior income in state and federal benefits combined.

The Democratic-controlled House approved a separate, $3 trillion relief package in May that also includes another $1,200 in direct payments and the full $600 weekly unemployment benefit through January. The more sweeping House version includes other Democratic priorities, including $200 billion for rental assistance and mortgage relief and $1 trillion for state and local governments. Speaker Nancy Pelosi also said she would seek more than the $100 billion the House had provided for schools as they seek to reopen amid safety concerns, while Senate Republicans want to expand liability protections for businesses which may face virus-related damage claims.

The horse-trading is inevitable in this high-stakes election year, but both sides seem to share the priority of pumping money into American households. That is especially important in Florida, where the highly-contagious virus has surged in recent weeks, stalling the economic reopening, compounding the financial hit to the state’s all-important tourism and hospitality industries and taxing hospitals and local governments even further. Another infusion of direct payments and federal jobless aid will help unemployed workers from falling further behind and help keep landlords and retailers afloat, as researchers continue pursuing a vaccine.

Congress should not delay in finding a reasonable compromise. With millions of Americans facing the loss of the federal jobless benefit this week, it’s imperative that Congress keep this emergency assistance flowing. Families need to know they won’t lose their homes or face financial ruin as the nation struggles to get back on its feet. Lenders, retailers and other industries depend on these regular paychecks to sustain employment throughout the economic food chain.

Republicans and Democrats should find common ground on the jobless benefit, which should be substantial enough to get struggling families through the next several months. And Congress should be wary of creating complicated formulas for unemployment aid. Florida, which has one of the stingiest jobless benefits in the country, had enough trouble processing the flat, $600 federal payment. It would defeat the purpose if the latest relief package subjected out-of-work Floridians to a similar dysfunctional bureaucratic process.

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Americans are hurting. They need Congress and the White House to put aside the partisan games and deliver another shot of much-needed relief.

Editorials are the institutional voice of the Tampa Bay Times. The members of the Editorial Board are Times Chairman and CEO Paul Tash, Editor of Editorials Graham Brink, and editorial writers Elizabeth Djinis, John Hill and Jim Verhulst. Follow @TBTimes_Opinion on Twitter for more opinion news