Late Tuesday afternoon, the Senate passed its Phase 3.5 coronavirus-relief bill. The nearly $500 billion package replenishes the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) for small businesses, which ran dry last week, and some funding for hospitals and expanded testing. For now, there's no sign of a second stimulus check for individual Americans, so that $1,200 might be all that goes to individuals until Congress gets around to yet another relief bill. And according to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, that's not coming anytime soon. Speaking to Politico, McConnell said, "My view is: We just added another $500 billion to the national debt. Let’s see how things are working."
We have a decent picture of how things are working so far. The first round of coronavirus relief was written so that huge restaurant chains like Ruth's Chris Steakhouse gobbled up tens of millions of dollars meant for small businesses to keep paying their workers. That's on top of $454 billion already laid aside for large corporations, like Boeing, in the coronavirus bailout, with minimal accountability or oversight. And Republicans slipped in a tax change, for which 82 percent of the benefits went to people making more than $1 million annually. Despite McConnell's invocations of the national debt, that one change alone needlessly added $90 billion for 2020 alone. Meanwhile, at least 22 million people filed for unemployment for the first time in just the past month, and in some states like Michigan and Pennsylvania, one in every five workers is now unemployed. Many more are struggling to even file their claims, as websites crash and calls go unanswered. In Florida alone, there are reportedly 560,000 outstanding unemployment applications.
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The latest relief bill took nearly two weeks of partisan bickering, and ultimately Democrats failed to secure funding for cities and states, election oversight, limits on bailouts for fossil-fuel companies, or aid for the postal service. In a statement, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer celebrated the inclusion of funding for hospitals and expanded testing, two provisions that weren't in Republicans' original proposal, but admitted that this was a stop-gap, saying, "This is an interim measure. There’s plenty of hard-won provisions that we Democrats are pleased with, but it is ultimately a building block."
McConnell, however, thinks that the Senate has done plenty for now. He's demonstrated little urgency for emergency relief for months. When Democrats first pushed for funding to fight the coronavirus outbreak in late February, McConnell called it "performative outrage," and in mid-March, he stalled negotiations in order to take a long weekend. He then held up negotiations again to fight Democrats' demands that the corporate bailout include transparency and oversight to make sure businesses were actually using funds to pay their employees. Now, the majority leader doesn't even want to consider any additional relief until the Senate is back in session on May 4.
He added, "The best way to get the economy back and running is to begin to open it up again, rather than passing immediately another bill where we have to borrow." Even economists disagree with McConnell's approach though, warning that the U.S. needs more widespread testing—if people aren't confident that they can leave home safely or if the death rate spikes again, the economy can't recover.
While large corporations and the wealthy received big paydays from earlier relief bills, workers are struggling to take out loans just to cover essentials. As unemployment rises, major lenders like Chase and Bank of America are making loans harder to get as unemployment rises, according to the Wall Street Journal. One in three Americans is struggling to pay bills for the month of April.
Originally Appeared on GQ