From the Watertown N.Y. Daily Times

MEMBERS OF Congress seemed more eager at the beginning of the novel coronavirus pandemic to approve an economic stimulus package than they’ve been lately.

President Donald Trump signed a $2 trillion relief bill on March 27. It included “a one-time direct payout of up to $1,200 for most American adults; … $500 billion in loans to struggling businesses; $377 billion in loans and grants for small businesses; $150 billion for local, state and tribal governments facing a drop in revenue; and $130 billion for hospitals dealing with an onslaught of patients,” according to a Los Angeles Times story published March 27 by the Watertown Daily Times.

It’s understandable that legislators were motivated to act quickly. To suppress the spread of infection, state governments implemented severe lockdown measures.

This helped substantially reduce the number of positive cases, hospitalizations and deaths. However, these mandates adversely affected many residents and businesses.

But as we approach the final month of the year, lawmakers appear deadlocked on how to proceed on a follow-up stimulus bill. They’ve quarreled off and on for months, but progress has been elusive. The consequences of not passing legislation are dire.

“With 36 days until the end of 2020, the pressure is mounting for top US lawmakers to restart negotiations on the next stimulus package — one that could include a second stimulus check, extra unemployment money for job-seekers and crucial funding for small businesses,” reported an article titled “Stimulus package: Can a deal pass before 2020 ends? What Congress has to work with,” written by Clifford Colby, Jessica Dolcourt and Alison DeNisco Rayome and published recently by CNET.com. “In reality, Congress has much less time than a month to debate, draft and vote on a new COVID-19 relief package. A day ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday, the number of Americans who can’t afford food is skyrocketing, job loss is up and new coronavirus cases and deaths are soaring. Twenty million renters in the (United States) are at risk of losing their homes after eviction protections end Dec. 31, according to the Aspen Institute.”

Policy advisers are urging those on Capitol Hill to get back to work and pass a bill.

“For Americans who have had a tough year financially amid COVID-19, a second set of $1,200 stimulus checks would provide some welcome relief,” according to a story published by CNBC.com. “But lawmakers on Capitol Hill still need to work out their differences before they can approve another coronavirus stimulus package that will trigger those payments. Now, a group of more than 125 economists including Jason Furman, a former top economic advisor to President Barack Obama, is calling for more direct cash payments to American families to help them weather the economic effects of the (coronavirus) pandemic. The initiative was organized by the Economic Security Project, an advocate of guaranteed income.”

The administration of president-elect Joe Biden will have more than a few problems to tackle when it takes over Jan. 20. Developing a national strategy for testing and contact tracing will be among its first priorities. It also will need to ensure that any vaccinations available and health care supplies are being distributed efficiently.

Therefore, it would be good for Mr. Biden to not have to worry about pushing through another economic stimulus package when he moves into the White House.

Congressional leaders must return to the bargaining table and come up with an effective plan.

Americans are counting on them to accomplish this objective, so lawmakers need to get back to work.

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