RICHMOND TIMES-DISPATCH, ANDREW CAIN
The $900 billion COVID-19 stimulus package Congress is poised to pass is coming eight months late, but it will provide key assistance to people who are struggling and businesses that are trying to survive, Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-7th, said Monday.
The bill’s many provisions include direct payments to most adults of up to $600, plus $600 per child; an extended unemployment benefit of $300 per week; $25 billion in rental assistance; $284 billion for forgivable business loans; $20 billion for targeted grants to help small businesses; and $13 billion to help families with food security.
“This bill represents the compromise of what we can get signed into law,” Spanberger said in a brief telephone interview.
Spanberger, a member of the Problem Solvers Caucus in the House, had backed a larger framework, but she said the focus on such areas as jobless benefits, food security, rental assistance and aid to businesses means “this package will deliver immediate aid.”
The $600 cap on direct payments has drawn some criticism for being insufficient to help people with housing.
Spanberger noted that in September, she had backed a bipartisan approach put forward by the Problem Solvers Caucus that would have produced $1,200 in direct payments.
“They’re right, $600 is not going to pay somebody’s rent, but it is a supplement” that is meant to help as part of the larger relief package, she said.
Spanberger said the shifting trajectory of the virus will be key to framing the next assistance package after President-elect Joe Biden takes office in January. Members of Congress must be attentive to the rollout of vaccines, unemployment rates, the risk of foreclosure, food security and the status of small businesses, she said.
Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., and Spanberger helped fashion a $908 billion framework for emergency COVID-19 relief that a bipartisan group of lawmakers unveiled Dec. 1. That proposal also included a variety of provisions to aid families and businesses, but did not include individual stimulus checks.
Warner said in a statement Sunday night that he is glad “congressional leaders took up our proposal” and “have finally announced long-awaited help for families, students, small businesses, health care providers, and schools to get through at least the next few months of this crisis.”
Congress was to vote Monday on the stimulus package as well as a $1.4 trillion omnibus measure to fund the government.
Rep. Rob Wittman, R-1st, who represents Hanover and New Kent counties, had criticized House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Friday for allowing what he called a “manufactured crisis” that required a stopgap funding measure to avert a government shutdown while a new COVID-19 relief package hung in the balance.
Rep. Don McEachin, D-4th, said in a statement: “More federal support can’t come quickly enough for struggling Virginia families, workers and small businesses.
“While this package cannot mark the end of our efforts to provide COVID-19 relief and Congress has more work to do to provide support for state and local government, I am pleased that today’s agreement includes nearly $1 trillion in critical funding for unemployment insurance, rental assistance, small businesses, and other essential support Virginians need to stay afloat during this crisis.”