Lesson of the Day: ‘5 Key Things in the $2 Trillion Coronavirus Stimulus Package’

Lesson of the Day: ‘5 Key Things in the $2 Trillion Coronavirus Stimulus Package’

Though the Senate unanimously passed the bill, some lawmakers had criticisms of it. The Times reports:

In the final measure, most Republicans agreed to Democrats’ demands for a substantial expansion of jobless benefits, including $600 extra per week on top of the usual amount provided by states.

On Wednesday afternoon, four Republican senators said they were concerned the new benefits would be larger than some people’s wages, prompting employers to lay off workers and some employees to prefer staying home and collecting unemployment payments.

“If this is not a drafting error, then this is the worst idea I have seen in a long time,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina. “We need to create a sustainable system.”

Mr. Mnuchin said the extra payments were calculated as a way to ensure that states could get money out quickly, saying that he did not believe it would create any perverse incentives. Most Americans, he said, “want to keep their jobs.”

Still, the Republicans’ threat to hold up the bill because of the issue prompted Senator Bernie Sanders, independent of Vermont and a Democratic presidential contender, to issue his own warning that he, too, would seek to block the legislation for being too lenient on corporations. Later, in a speech on the floor, Mr. Sanders said he would support the bill despite his many reservations.

Encapsulating the sentiment of many lawmakers in both parties about the hastily negotiated package, Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska, one of the Republicans who sought to cap the jobless aid, said while he disagreed with Mr. Sanders, “I appreciate his candor in admitting that this is kind of a big crap sandwich.”

What is your reaction to these criticisms? Are any of them valid? Why or why not? What other issues, if any, do you see with this stimulus package? Do you think it should have been passed, even if it’s not a perfect bill? Why or why not?

If you have more time …

Take a moment to scroll through The Times Coronavirus Outbreak coverage. Which industries and workers seem to be most affected by the economic shutdown caused by social distancing and shelter-in-place measures? How, if at all, will the stimulus bill help them?

You might choose one of those industries or groups to read about more in depth, like the travel and hospitality industry, cultural institutions like museums and theaters, public transportation, undocumented household workers and Uber and Lyft drivers.

What are this group’s specific needs and concerns? Does the stimulus package address them? If so, how? Is it enough to sustain them for weeks or even months? If not, what measures would you add to the bill to support them?

Based on what you learned, to what extent do you think the government has a responsibility to help individuals and industries stay afloat during an economic crisis? What responsibility do employers have to their employees? What should we, as individuals, do to support the small businesses, workers and hospitals in our communities?