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Some members of Congress along with business and consumer leaders and advocates say they are increasingly worried about the nation’s economic recovery as some funds from roughly $6 trillion in COVID-19 relief since 2020 run dry.
According to the Washington Post, despite the eye-popping amount of money Congress has already spent on coronavirus relief — a significant portion of it borrowed, by the way, inflating the already out-of-control national debt of $29 trillion-plus — some of the more important programs “to keep businesses afloat and help households pay bills” have either run out of money or have expired altogether.
Concerns are rising, along with new omicron variant infections, that the country’s recovery will be hampered without new infusions of money.
“There’s no federal money left to keep restaurants open. The aid for concert halls and other customer-starved performance spaces has nearly gone dry. Federal officials ended their primary effort that pumped money into small businesses with sagging balance sheets, and they stopped paying out extra sums to workers who are out of a job,” the Post noted.
In addition, federal student loan payments that were paused during the pandemic are set to begin again early next year, while a stimulus measure passed by the Democrat-controlled Congress and signed by President Biden early this year that doled out monthly payments to around 35 million families ran out last week.
Meanwhile, attempts to revive some of these programs have not gained traction in Congress, though several lawmakers are stumping for them to be funded once more.
“I’m concerned that you’re going to have many, many vulnerable Americans, Americans with young children for example, falling between the cracks,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) told the Post. “January looks like a tough month with respect to omicron.”
But that said, the U.S. economy is, at the moment, strong. Unemployment has fallen to near pre-pandemic levels, and though millions are no longer in the workforce, job openings nonetheless remain plentiful. And many state governors are in no mood to order their residents to lock down again.
Plus, there are concerns that trillions more in new spending will only worsen inflation, which is already at a 40-year high — a concern that led moderate Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia to announce on Sunday he won’t support Biden’s massive “Build Back Better” legislation, for the time being, leaving that bill dead in the water in the evenly-divided Senate.
The Post also noted that the White House remains confident that billions of dollars still remaining as part of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Biden signed will be enough to tide the country over. Funds for states and schools remain unspent, and that money may help soften any economic blows stemming from omicron says Gene Sperling, one of Biden’s top economic advisers.
“We feel people should be reassured by how strong the job market and the economy [are] now, and the fact there are still resources in the American Rescue Plan that can help deal with lingering challenges or the inevitable bumps in the road on economic recovery and covid recovery,” he said, according to the Post.
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