CARES Act is for pandemic relief — not deficit repairs

Federal CARES Act assistance has been invaluable for many American families and businesses. Without it, what appears to be a record-setting recovery from the financial crisis caused by COVID-19 would not be occurring. Millions of families with laid-off breadwinners would be in desperate trouble.

But most of the nearly $3 trillion in assistance authorized by the original CARES Act has been distributed. With the coronavirus hitting in a devastating new wave of death, more help is needed.

Without it, a significant number of employers will collapse. They will not be part of the economic comeback. Perhaps millions of job losses will become permanent.

President-elect Joe Biden has joined the chorus of people pleading with Congress to approve a new round of epidemic relief funding.

Biden’s transition team has released a statement specifying that new funding “should include resources to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, relief for working families and small businesses, support for state and federal governments trying to keep frontline workers on the payroll, expanded unemployment insurance and affordable health care for millions of families.”

That is right on target.

But members of Congress and representatives of President Donald Trump’s administration have been debating a follow-up CARES Act for months. No one disagrees that provisions such as those outlined by Biden should be included.

Other expensive spending, sometimes not related to the epidemic, has been insisted upon by some lawmakers, however. An especially controversial suggestion is that state governments should receive funding to repair budgets damaged not by COVID-19, but by pre-existing deficits such as those related to underfunded public employee pension programs.

None of that should be included. A basic relief package with spending restricted solely to epidemic-related needs could be approved immediately by Congress. Lawmakers should proceed with such action. American families and small businesses cannot afford delays that are entirely political in nature.


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