What was once thought to be a longshot for a stimulus package is now looking like a slight possibility. Rumors on Capitol Hill were circulating on Thursday, leading people to believe that a COVID-19 relief stimulus package may be passed prior to Congress breaking for the holiday season.
Momentum Building for New Stimulus Package: Momentum in passing a new stimulus package is starting to build as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi are meeting to talk about the possibility of a $908 billion bipartisan package. The deal was put together by leaders on both sides of the aisle in an attempt to push through the package as COVID-19 cases rise sharply throughout much of the country.Read More »
State and Local Funding the Big Dividers: The bipartisan stimulus deal is not the only proposal being floated in Washington. McConnell also presented a smaller package that does not offer funding at the state and local level. While McConnell’s plan has the support of President Donald Trump, the Democrats say that it falls woefully short of meeting the needs of a nation.
At issue is a lack of state and local funding. Conversely, the bipartisan bill allocates $160 billion in state and local funding. Republicans generally oppose providing the states with direct access to the funds. This is largely because the Republican states are doing better than expected economically because they have not forced shutdowns as much as their Democratic counterparts.
What is Next? The talks are expected to continue through the weekend ahead of the December 11 deadline. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said that he is hoping that the deal to avoid the government shutdown comes together by Saturday evening. It will be a bonus if the stimulus bill can be incorporated into that.
But What About Personal Stimulus Checks? If you are holding out hope that you may receive a personal stimulus check by the end of the year, you are likely going to be disappointed. One thing that none of these proposed stimulus bills have included is another round of personal checks similar to what the majority of Americans received last spring.
It is not likely that this massive funding would be tacked on to the bill in the near future. Any chance of these checks being issued a second time will fall on the incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden to try to push through.
California Announces Another Round of Restrictions: In other COVID-19 and political-related news, California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced new restrictions for his state in an attempt to prevent hospital ICU beds from becoming overwhelmed.
Newsom said that a new stay at home order will be put in place in regions where hospitals are not able to keep up with new COVID-19 patients. The new order will go into effect 48 hours after the affected region sees hospital intensive care unit capacity dip below 15%. To separate areas out, the state has been divided into five regions. These regions are Northern California, Bay Area, Greater Sacramento, San Joaquin Valley, and Southern California.
While none of these regions are currently meeting this threshold, government officials are estimating that four of the five areas will dip below the 15% ICU capacity in the next week or two. As of now, the Bay Area looks to be in the best shape with ICU capacity. However, even that region is expected to fall below 15% capacity by the end of the year.
The new stay at home recommendations are coming at a time when California cannot seem to get the virus under control. On Thursday alone, the Golden State saw 18,591 new confirmed infections. This brings the total number of COVID-19 cases to over 1.2 million for the state. Over 2,000 patients are currently being treated for COVID-19 in hospitals at this time.
Details of California’s Proposed Stay at Home Order: When a region goes under the new order, the stay at home mandate would remain in effect for a minimum of three weeks. Depending on what the hospitalization utilization looks like at the end of this time period, the stay at home order may be extended.
Retail businesses will be allowed to remain open during the mandate, however, capacity will be limited to more than 20%. All restaurants will be closed for indoor dining with takeout and delivery as the only options. In addition, all personal services, bars, wineries, amusement parks, playgrounds, movie theatres, gyms, and museums will be closed.
Schools that have already been operating for in-person learning will be allowed to welcome students onsite. However, Newsom said that travel will be largely prohibited.
Biden to Ask Americans to Wear Masks for 100 Days: In an interview with CNN on Thursday, Biden said that he would ask Americans to wear masks for his first 100 days in office beginning on January 20. Biden said that he plans to issue a binding mandate in areas that he has control over, including federal buildings or on airplanes and busses.
In the same interview, Biden also said that he has asked Dr. Anthony Fauci to serve on his COVID-19 response team. As the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), Fauci has become the most trusted source in the fight against COVID-19.
When asked by Jake Tapper about his philosophy on controlling the virus, Biden said that his plan will balance the health of the nation with keeping the economy as open as possible. The incoming president said that he will get the vaccine himself once Fauci gives his approval. These comments by Biden come a day after Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama all said that they would get the vaccine on camera in an effort to demonstrate their trust in the approval system.
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