Also known as the CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act), the plan aims to ameliorate the economic effects COVID-19 has had across America. Through the CARES Act, individuals within a certain income range will receive a maximum of $1200 and $500 per child in direct payments. Unemployed individuals will also receive an additional 13 weeks of support as well as a $600 supplement per week for up to four months. The plan supports small businesses with a $377 billion loan program and provides big corporations with a $500 billion lending fund. Finally, states will receive cash grants based on population and support for their healthcare systems.
The bill was first presented on March 20 by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. However, with both parties fighting to make their voices heard, the bill did not pass until March 25.
On one side of the aisle, the Republicans pushed for rapid action in the face of an epidemic. The largely Republican-backed legislation provided much-needed support to small businesses and large corporations, setting aside hundreds of billions of dollars in loans to help keep companies afloat. Three months’ worth of pay to unemployed individuals was also allotted.
On the other side, Democrats demanded greater funding all around, even if it meant holding up aid. A major point of contention between the two parties was the $500 billion “slush fund” allocated to large corporations. The fund was labeled as such by the Democrats because Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin was not required to disclose which companies received what amount of loans until six months after the distribution. Reminded of the 2008 bank bailout and the unrest that had followed, Democrats urged for greater transparency and oversight on how the loans could be used by corporations. They also fought for greater unemployment benefits, something Republicans worried would result in voluntary job loss.
Ultimately though, the two parties came to several compromises, including three oversight bodies and increased funding all around; the legislation was passed unanimously.
With COVID-19 dictating much of our daily lives, many Hopkins students are taking an interest in the government’s response to the pandemic. Head of Young Republicans Alessandro Amoedo ’20, was generally satisfied with the stimulus package, stating, “I think the governments' approach is a good first step. I think that adding more time for unemployment insurance is a smart move, and the one-time payments to families and forgiveness of loan payments makes sense with the economic uncertainty.” Nana Dondorful-Amos ’22 agrees the stimulus package was a “great starting point” but stresses that it “definitely does not solve everyone’s problems. Not every family's situation is the same, and the people who are greatly impacted by the lack of a paycheck coming in the mail need to be supported.”
Jack Kealey ’21 echoes Dondorful-Amos,, saying that while he is “glad that Congress is up-and-running on this issue,” he is “disheartened by the narrow scope a lot of legislation is focusing on.” This tone of general dissatisfaction is not unique to Kealey. Ingrid Slattery ’23’s main concern lies in the government’s approach to combating the epidemic. Slattery believes it is necessary to “innovate and find a way to create jobs that people can do either from home or with enough safety precautions to prevent spreading” as opposed to simply giving people money.
With phase three of bills passed, the government is back to work on its fourth coronavirus relief package. As to what exactly the fourth act will entail, Hopkins students have their own opinions on what they hope it will accomplish, with many students interested in greater funding all around. Kealey is especially interested in increased funding to states. The current plan allocates $150 billion in direct aid to state and local governments to cover COVID-19 related expenses specifically, which Kealey believes is not enough. He says, “When cities and municipalities can't get enough funding for their own personal recovery projects, I fear the economy will look even worse than it does now.”
Laila Samuel ’23 is hoping for increased funding to hospitals, which is currently around $100 billion. Samuel, whose mother is currently working in a hospital treating only COVID-19 patients, describes the situation of her mother’s workplace as “lacking proper protection. The hospital doesn’t have enough N95 masks or gowns for doctors to wear, and so they are at greater risk for getting the virus.”
Slattery is also interested in attaching conditions to the relief money that will promote greener practices. She elaborates: “if we use this crisis to re-design our flagging economy to be more sustainable by offering money to green energy companies or attaching conditions and benefits to government stimulus, those steps will prove essential after the pandemic.”
That being said, the CARES Act is only one part of the federal government’s response to COVID-19, and many Hopkins students are already looking towards the future. As Slattery puts it, “When we come out the other side of this pandemic, I think the world will be a very different place. There is no way to tell how different the world will be except to acknowledge that how we act during this crisis will dictate changes in the post-pandemic world.” But until then, in the words of Amoedo, only “time will tell what else we need to do.”