Stimulus is too little, too late, struggling Americans say

The North Bergen, New Jersey, resident has had to take responsibility for most of her mother’s $1,600 monthly mortgage to keep a roof over their heads, preventing her from paying back her student loans and saving for her future. Her mother, who is employed at a hotel nearby, now works only eight hours a week since the pandemic has eviscerated tourism and conferences.

The family was able to stay afloat in the early months of the pandemic, thanks largely to the $600 weekly boost in unemployment benefits that lawmakers passed in late March, and Ware is mystified as to what took Congress so long to provide more assistance despite the growing need.

“I have a deep love for our country, but I truly feel that we have been failed by its leadership,” said Ware, who feels fortunate to have a job at a community development nonprofit group.

After months of start-stop negotiations, Congress finally passed a $900 billion relief package on Monday evening. The bill will provide a $300 weekly enhancement to jobless payments for 11 weeks, extend two key pandemic unemployment programs through early spring, send up to $600 in direct payments, renew the eviction moratorium, increase food stamps and other nutrition assistance, and give more aid to struggling small businesses.

But this help is too little, too late, say many Americans who have had trouble making ends meet amid the coronavirus-wrought economic upheaval. The $1,200 stimulus checks from the March package have long been spent, and the $600 federal boost for laid-off workers ended in July.

More than 750 CNN readers told us their thoughts on Tuesday, with many saying they are deeply disappointed. The $600 payments and 11 more weeks of extra unemployment benefits won’t go far, they wrote.

President Donald Trump signaled that he may not sign the coronavirus relief bill passed by Congress unless it amends the massive spending legislation to raise the amount of stimulus payments.

“I’m asking Congress to amend this bill and increase the ridiculously low $600 to $2,000 or $4,000 per couple,” Trump said in a video released on Twitter. “I’m also asking Congress to immediately get rid of the wasteful and unnecessary items in this legislation or to send me a suitable bill.”

In a year-end news conference Tuesday, President-elect Joe Biden said the package provides “vital relief at a critical moment,” but is “far from perfect.” He said he plans to go to Congress early next year to urge more assistance for the “millions of hurting families who are unable to put food on the table, pay rent or the mortgage,” as well as others in need of help.

“As I have said all along, this bill is just the first step, a down payment in addressing the crises — more than one — that we’re in,” he said. “There’s a lot more work to do.”

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