Congress must act fast
Debate over a new coronavirus relief package continues in Congress and at the White House. Disagreements are both legitimate and political, but one thing ought to be obvious to all involved: Millions of Americans will be in very real financial trouble if a deal is not achieved quickly.
Outlines of the proposal call for it to include $1 trillion in aid to individuals, families, companies, organizations and local and state governments, including public schools. Agreement seems to end there, however.
One important, essential act by Congress need not involve appropriating more money. It is altering restrictions on the about $3 trillion in aid already approved.
Billions of dollars have been handed out to states already. There is a limit on how the money can be spent, however: It is restricted to reimbursing local and state governments for expenses linked directly to the COVID-19 epidemic.
Even as they have been battling the crisis, however, most local and state entities have seen revenue supporting their budget plummet because of the economic slowdown. Many are in desperate need of help to keep the books in balance.
Critics of budget bailouts for local and state governments worry the money would be used to make up for years of mismanagement related to politics, not COVID-19. Surely someone in Washington is creative enough to write a bill eliminating that kind of abuse.
Evidence that budget bailout money is needed because of revenue loss due to the epidemic ought to be required. Trust us on this: Municipal, county and state entities will have no trouble providing that proof.
Enacting a new coronavirus relief package is another story — but one that also needs to be addressed, and soon. Millions of Americans remain unemployed because of the epidemic. Within days, funding to help states provided them with help will run out.
Across the nation, the crisis continues to threaten the very existence of many businesses. They, too, needed help.
Finally, public schools preparing to reopen for the new academic year require supplemental funding to deal with challenges such as keeping students safe and, if distance learning must be employed, providing it.
Congress needs to act — within days, not weeks.