Southern California Democratic Reps. Lieu, Levin, Peters, and Ruiz laud the eleventh hour passage of a bipartisan COVID-19 relief bill, but said the leaner than desired package leaves many gaps that the new administration will immediately need to address.
“This relief package was far too small,” said Rep. Ted Lieu, who represents Santa Monica as part of California’s 33rd congressional District. “We had the choice of either doing nothing or passing some relief to the American people, but to me, this is just a downpayment so hopefully we can do additional stimulus when Joe Biden and Kamala Harris come in on January 20.”
The $900 billion package which Lieu, Peters and Levin worked to secure in Congress, is much smaller than the $2.2 trillion CARES Act passed in March.
It provides a round of $600 direct payments to adults and children, revives supplemental unemployment benefits to $300 a week for 11 weeks, and provides $280 billion of forgivable paycheck protection loans for small businesses.
The representatives said this was sorely needed aid for their struggling constituents, but emphasized that a lot of benefits will run out in a matter of weeks.
“I suggested, and a lot of the new dems in my caucus suggested, that we committed to smart measures like automatic stabilizers in the beginning. That would have prevented us from having to come together in these fits and starts to reauthorize money,” said Rep. Scott Peters.
Peters is Vice Chairman of the New Democrat Coalition and is involved in the push to include automatic stabilizers in relief legislation, which would tie government assistance to economic triggers.
Stabilizers could be tied to relief measures like PPP loans or direct payments to families. For example, extended unemployment benefits could be tied to the unemployment rate, so the level and duration of unemployment benefits would be directly related to economic conditions.
Peters hopes the Biden administration will be more amenable to the concept, which would provide more economic certainty for people and decrease reliance on last minute congressional deals.
The representatives said this bill was passed in the nick of time to avert an impending recession and provide sorely needed relief to families struggling to put food on the table. They hope that more proactive COVID-19 relief legislation can be passed in the new year.
“The HEROES Act was the ideal bill in the ideal moment,” said Rep. Mike Levin, referring to the relief act that cleared the Democrat controlled house in May and died in the Republican controlled senate. “This bill was left until there was a worsening public health crisis and economic fatigue in dealing with the pandemic, until the American people were desperate, until there was a political crisis at hand so that they can feed us a half baked sense of recovery.”
The federal relief package, despite its limitations, is very welcome in Santa Monica and Southern California as it includes $82 billion for education, $10 billion for child care, $16 billion for vaccine development and distribution, and $13 billion for food stamps. It does not include state and local aid money, which is something the representatives said they intend on pushing for in the New Year.
“We are looking forward to working with a new Biden administration to provide the aid that is necessary for states, local municipalities and also increase the support that’s truly necessary, not only to help our struggling families, but also to prevent a great depression,” said Rep. Raul Ruiz. “We need this administration to safely and quickly end the pandemic, boost our local economy and build back better.”