President Trump Finally Signs Second Pandemic Relief Bill


After over a week of typical bluster and theatrics through the Christmas holiday, and allowing unemployment benefits to lapse for millions of Americans during that time, President Trump finally caved at the 11th hour and signed the second pandemic relief bill into law.  So, what’s in the bill, and what are the implications of it?

Here are some highlights of what’s actually in the bill:

Individual Payments

Individual payments of $600 to adults who earn up to $75K/year and dependent children based on 2019 earnings. Heads of households who earn up to $112,500 and a couple who make up to $150,000 a year will receive twice that amount. The benefit declines for those who earned more than those income levels. It cuts off entirely for individuals who earned more than $99,000.

Extension of Unemployment Benefits

The agreement would bring back enhanced federal jobless benefits of up to $300 per week for 11 weeks, through March 14th, 20201.  This amount is half the previous amount ($600) from the original CARES Act passed in early April.

Small Business Aid

The agreement allocates $285MM for small businesses under the original PPP (Payroll Protection Program) that have continued to be affected by the pandemic.  The bill appears to call for stricter terms of eligibility for this aid. Furthermore, loans are capped at $2 million are available only to borrowers with fewer than 300 employees that experienced at least a 25 percent drop in sales from a year earlier in at least one quarter. The agreement also sets aside $12 billion specifically for minority-owned businesses.

The bill also provides $15 billion to support a broad category of entertainment-related businesses, including small theaters and live music venues, which have been hit extremely hard during the entire pandemic.

Protections for Renters

The bill would also protect tenants struggling to pay rent by extending a moratorium on evictions another month, through Jan. 31th. The Department of Housing and Urban Development issued a moratorium that also protects homeowners against foreclosures on home mortgages and runs until Feb. 28th.

The bill also allocates $25 billion in rental assistance.  This move could take some pressure off some state and local housing officials who anticipated forfeiting some of the aid allocated from the CARES Act because they were unable to distribute it all ahead of a Dec. 30 deadline.

The bill also provides for vaccines and nursing homes, support for climate measures, a ban on surprise medical bills, expanded SNAP by 15% for 6 months, and funding for broadband infrastructure.

How this bill will affect Americans and the economy over the next several months is up for debate.  What should have been clear to everyone even as far ago as this past summer was that the CARES act was going to require a follow up bill to get us through the pandemic without further destroying peoples lives and the fabric of our nation.  Doing so only now well after it was needed only puts millions of Americans already living on the edge on the precipice of complete disaster.

Almost immediately after Congress passed the bill a week ago, President Trump began trashing it, saying he wanted the payments raised from $600 to $2000, and an elimination of all of the “wasteful” items that were included in the separate budget bill, or he would not pass it.  This little sideshow drama dragged on for over a week through the Christmas holiday, allowing unemployment benefits to expire for up to 12MM people over the weekend, before he predictably caved last night.

Setting aside the President’s transparently manipulative theatrics for a second, should Congress have done more to alleviate the pain for its fellow citizens and the overall economy?  This bill, at first glance, seems to be too small and too short in duration to get us through the reminder to the pandemic to vaccinations en masse.  One thing is clear is that Congress COULD have done more, but simply chose not to, for the usual reasons of political gridlock and blind ideology, namely the convenient obsession with the federal debt and deficits and the ever looming specter of inflation.  What we do know, is they always manage to find the money for to help the very richest in our country.  For proof of that, look no further than the fact that billions of dollars were buried in the bill to appease the richest among us.

Then there’s economist Larry Summers, who insisted that $2K in payments to Americans would risk overheating the economy.  Note that types like Larry Summers rarely concern themselves with the pernicious effects of increasing vast wealth inequality and “overheating” at the highest ends of the economy, due in part to the elements of financialization of the economy, namely in the form of asset inflation (stocks, housing, etc.) and the prices of things Americans need to survive, including education and healthcare.  It’s only when the broad masses might benefit a little that we should concern ourselves with such things.

In fact, citizens in states like Senator Mitch McConnell’s Kentucky continue to suffer badly from the economic effects on the pandemic, while he and fellow Senator continue to block much needed aid for many of their own constituents:

In cases and deaths, Kentucky hasn’t been hit as hard by the coronavirus as some other states. Like most of the country, it has experienced a surge this fall, but one less severe than in neighboring Tennessee. Kentucky’s economy is reeling all the same, particularly in rural areas already struggling.

“We were in dire need of help economically to start with, before Covid,” said Matthew C. Wireman, the judge-executive of Magoffin County, an Appalachian county where the unemployment rate was 16.7 percent in October, one of the highest in the country.

The aid would come over the objection of one of Kentucky’s Republican senators, Rand Paul, who was one of just six to vote against the package in the Senate, on the grounds that it amounted to handing out “free money.” And it would be smaller and later than it might otherwise have been because of the work of the state’s other senator, Mitch McConnell, who as majority leader fought to limit the package.

Mr. McConnell in particular worked to exclude broad-based aid to state and local governments — help that many local officials in his state say they desperately need.

Billionaire wealth has completely exploded even further during the pandemic, while millions of their fellow citizens (and workers, in some cases, see Amazon) have greatly suffered.  According to the USA Today, America’s 614 billionaires grew their net worth by at least $931 billion (other sources are reporting it’s actually over $1 TRILLION) during this time.  Perhaps a nice 30-50% wealth tax on that amount (which would still leave them all fabulously richer than they were before) to help fund a bigger, longer term relief bill that gets us through the remainder of the pandemic without further collateral damage to their fellow citizens and the country as a whole would be just what’s needed?  We could even call it The Patriot Tax if that’s what it would take.  What does everyone think?



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David Himmelstein


Dr. David Himmelstein is a distinguished professor of public health and health policy in the CUNY School of Public Health at Hunter College, adjunct clinical professor at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and lecturer in medicine at Harvard Medical School. He has served as chief of the division of social and community medicine at Cambridge Hospital.

Nick Hanauer

Pitchfork Economics

Nick Hanauer is one of the most successful entrepreneurs, investors, and managers in the Pacific Northwest with over 30 years of experience across a broad range of industries including manufacturing, retail, e-commerce, digital media and advertising, software, aerospace, health care, and finance. He is a co-founder and partner of Second Avenue Partners, a Seattle-based venture capital firm that provides management, strategy, and capital for early stage companies. 

Barry Ritholtz

Ritholtz Wealth MGMT

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Barry is the creator and host of Bloomberg’s “Masters in Business” radio podcast, and a featured columnist at the Washington Post. He is the author of the Bailout Nation: How Greed and Easy Money Corrupted Wall Street and Shook the World Economy (Wiley, 2009). In addition to serving as Chairman and Chief Investment Officer of Ritholtz Wealth Management, he is also on the advisory boards of Riskalyze, and Peer Street, two leading financial technology startups bringing transparency and analytics to the investment business.

Barry has named one of the “15 Most Important Economic Journalists” in the United States, and has been called one of The 25 Most Dangerous People in Financial Media. When not working, he can be found with his wife and their two dogs on the north shore of Long Island.

Richard Florida

City Lab

Richard Florida is a co-founder and editor at large of CityLab and a senior editor at The Atlantic. He is a university professor in the University of Toronto’s School of Cities and Rotman School of Management, and a distinguished fellow at New York University’s Schack Institute of Real Estate and visiting fellow at Florida International University.

Janet Gornick

CUNY-Stone Center

Janet Gornick attended Harvard University, where she was awarded a B.A. (psychology and social relations, 1980), an M.P.A. (Kennedy School, 1987), and a Ph.D. (political economy and government, 1994). She is currently a professor of political science and sociology at The Graduate Center, CUNY. From September 2006 to August 2016, she served as director of LIS (formerly the Luxembourg Income Study), a cross‐national data archive and research center located in Luxembourg, with a satellite office at The Graduate Center. Since September 2016, she has served as director of the James M. and Cathleen D. Stone Center on Socio‐Economic Inequality. The Stone Center includes the LIS satellite office, known as the US Office of LIS.

Ken Jacobs

UC Berkeley Labor Center

Ken Jacobs is the chair of the Labor Center, where he has been a labor specialist since 2002. His areas of specialization include low-wage work, labor standards policies, and health care coverage. He has recently worked on economic impact studies of proposed minimum wage laws for the cities of Seattle, Los Angeles, and San Jose, and conducted analyses of the public cost of low-wage work. Jacobs is the co-editor, with Michael Reich and Miranda Dietz, of When Mandates Work: Raising Labor Standards at the Local Level (University of California Press), an edited volume on the impacts of labor standards policies in San Francisco.

Steven Pitts

UC Berkeley Labor Center

Steven Pitts came to the Labor Center in August of 2001 from Houston, Texas. Steven received his Ph.D. in economics with an emphasis on urban economics from the University of Houston in 1994. His master’s degree is also from the University of Houston and he holds a bachelor’s degree from Harvard University. For the fifteen years prior to his arrival at the Labor Center, Steven taught economics at Houston Community College and, for five years, he was an adjunct lecturer in the African American Studies Program at the University of Houston. At the Labor Center, Steven focuses on issues of job quality and Black workers. In this arena, he has published reports on employment issues in the Black community, initiated a Black union leadership school, and shaped projects designed to build solidarity between Black and Latino immigrant workers. Currently, a major area of his work involves providing technical assistance to efforts in developing Black worker centers around the country.

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April has served as the WSLC’s Political and Strategic Campaign Director since November 2017, working to develop shared agendas with labor and community partners, to advance strategic organizing campaigns (raising wages, naturalization, revenue reform, etc.), and to recruit, train and elect political champions for working people. She first joined the WSLC in September 2015 as Field Mobilization Director, working with WSLC-affiliated unions and community partners to support and encourage the participation of individual members with many different political, legislative and community programs.

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Gary Evans

Cornell University

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Today SEIU is the fastest-growing union in North America, uniting workers in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. Over 25 percent of our members whom identify as immigrants – a constant tribute to the union’s roots. From the start, SEIU has embraced its heritage as a union of immigrants and has stood on the frontline of immigrant justice.

“People open their lives and homes to us, for me it becomes not only a privilege but a responsibility to make sure their stories are told. We have to be brutally honest and empathetic when telling their stories. When it comes to filming families, the right thing to do is be their advocate and make sure people don’t look away. “
Jillian Hurley

Stephanie Porta

Organize Florida

As a community organizer, Stephanie Porta has spent the last 15 years working to support Florida’s low income communities in their fight for equity and dignity. Her work has led to raising Florida’s minimum wage in 2004, passing police accountability reforms, winning foreclosure prevention programs, affordable utility campaigns, electing progressive officials and much more.

In 2010, Stephanie co-founded Organize Florida to work on the needs of Florida’s low and moderate income communities and now acts as Executive Director. The membership organization has grown quickly and has membership in 17 counties across mid-Florida. In 2014, Stephanie championed efforts to pass Earned Sick Time in Orange County, and in 2016 supported outreach efforts to more than two million voters across Florida. Stephanie has been recognized by the Orlando Sentinel, Orlando Weekly, Orlando Magazine & Orlando Women’s Magazine for leadership on government transparency and issues facing the working poor.

Beth Babcock


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Mike Buchman

Solid Ground

Mike is the Communications Director for Solid Ground in Seattle, WA. Solid Ground works to end poverty and undo racism and other oppressions that are root causes of poverty. Solid Ground envisions a community beyond poverty and oppression where all people have equitable opportunity to thrive.

Stephanie Kelton

Stony Brook University

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Lawrence Katz

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Mitchell has also written for The AtlanticBloombergWashington Monthly, and Wall Street Journal.  She’s the author of the book Big-Box Swindle. Her perspective and research are frequently cited in news media and she’s appeared on several national radio shows and podcasts, including NPR’s On The Media and Chris Hayes’ Why Is This Happening?


"Income inequality is the greatest problem facing America today. It effects our other two major inequality issues, racial inequality and gender inequality. Income inequality must be remedied or America will inevitably collapse into a Banana Republic without drastic legislative and societal action."
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"How the war on poverty became the war against the poor."
Dave Pederson

Jacob Hacker

Yale University

Jacob S. Hacker is Stanley Resor Professor of Political Science and Director of the Institution for Social and Policy Studies at Yale University. A regular media commentator and policy adviser, he is the author or co-author of five books, numerous journal articles, and a wide range of popular writings on American politics and public policy. His most recent book, written with Paul Pierson, is American Amnesia: How the War on Government Led Us to Forget What Made America Prosper—a New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice and a best business book of 2016 according to the management magazine Strategy+Business.