Members and staff continued to work on a final FY 2021 appropriations omnibus package that will cover all 12 appropriations bills. They continue to make progress, but it is increasingly likely that they will need another short-term continuing resolution (CR) to finalize the package. The current CR funding expires on December 11, 2020. It seems possible that another smaller COVID-19 relief package could be attached to a final appropriations package that would likely pass just before Christmas. To read a chart of various key child welfare and children’s spending categories, go here.
While appropriations work continued, a small bipartisan group of senators that included Senator Angus King (I-ME), Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), Senator Mark Warner (D-VA), Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT), and Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA) offered the broad outlines of a $908 billion package. The package, which is closer to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) $500 billion proposal than the House’s $2 trillion package, gained some traction and support from Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Late in the week Pelosi and McConnell spoke by phone.
The bill details were broad, but it contains short-term (into March) unemployment benefits at $300 per week. That and other unemployment relief would amount to $180 billion, with $160 billion in state and local fiscal relief—although it is not clear how that would be allocated, a new round of paycheck protection program (PPP) small business loans at $288 billion, $45 billion in transportation systems relief, $82 billion for schools and universities and $10 billion for child care. The package sets up a framework for further development.
While there is Senate bipartisan support, there are still many unknowns. Majority Leader McConnell did not provide an endorsement. The President-elect’s team has sent positive signals to Capitol Hill, in part because it is envisioned as a down-payment toward more 2021 relief. However, the challenge is that President-elect Biden cannot sign the bill, that is up to Donald Trump. Mr. Trump has not offered much in terms of budget and policy issue guidance since the November election. Instead, Trump has fixated on his nearly 7 million vote loss. An additional factor is what may become of discussions Speaker Pelosi had with Secretary of Treasury Steve Mnuchin.
As noted in earlier Children’s Monitors (and below), 12 million people are expected to lose their unemployment compensation the day after Christmas. In addition to that, some of the eviction protections through previous relief measures and the CDC are set to expire at the end of this month. New research suggests that there was an increased spread of the COVID-19 virus in those states that let eviction protections expire. Not a surprising outcome if families and individuals are forced to crowd into alternate living arrangements.
Time is running short, especially with the COVID-19 explosion across the states. Back in the summer, when states like Arizona and Florida were battling a rapid spread, the 7-day average of reported cases per 100,000 was in the high 30s and 40 per 100,000. As of the end of last week, the national number was 50 per 100,000, with states like South Dakota were leading the nation at more than 100 per 100,000.