Democrats have called an aspect of the GOP bill a “slush fund” that would give Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (center) the ability to help industries without transparency. Drew Angerer/Getty Images
COVID-19

Senate fails to agree to $1.8 trillion COVID-19 relief

Janet Nguyen Mar 23, 2020
Democrats have called an aspect of the GOP bill a “slush fund” that would give Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (center) the ability to help industries without transparency. Drew Angerer/Getty Images

For the second day in a row, Congress has failed to reach an agreement over a nearly $2 trillion economic aid package as businesses across the country shutter and lay off their workers.

In a 49-46 vote, Senate Democrats blocked the bill on Monday, which would have needed 60 votes to move forward.

Democrats had previously rejected the GOP’s plans on Sunday in a 47-to-47 vote over concerns that the package prioritized bailouts for big companies over worker protections and that it failed to take into account hospitals and health care workers. Five Republican senators are in self-quarantine and have been unable to participate in these key votes.

The bill earmarks $500 billion to help out businesses like airlines and car manufacturers, including corporations like Boeing, which economists argue is too big to fail. That amount has been a major point of contention among Democrats, who have called it a “slush fund” and argued that it gives Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin the ability to help industries without transparency.

The GOP proposal would also send direct checks to Americans who make less than a certain threshold, with $1,200 going to adults and $500 to children.

About 281,000 Americans filed unemployment claims for the week of March 14 — a 70,000 increase from the week before. According to one estimate, 18% of U.S. workers have lost jobs or hours since the new coronavirus began to spread across America.

The steps being taken on Capitol Hill, or lack thereof, have shaken financial markets. At one point on Monday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average declined more than 800 points, before ultimately closing more than 580 points lower since Friday. Meanwhile, the S&P 500 dropped more than 67 points, or nearly 3%.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

Pfizer said early data show its coronavirus vaccine is effective. So what’s next?

In the last few months, Pfizer and its partner BioNTech have shared other details of the process including trial blueprints, the breakdown of the subjects and ethnicities and whether they’re taking money from the government. They’re being especially transparent in order to try to temper public skepticism about this vaccine process. The next big test, said Jennifer Miller at the Yale School of Medicine, comes when drug companies release their data, “so that other scientists who the public trust can go in, replicate findings, and communicate them to the public. And hopefully build appropriate trust in a vaccine.”

How is President-elect Joe Biden planning to address the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic turmoil it’s created?

On Nov. 9, President-Elect Joe Biden announced three co-chairs of his new COVID-19 task force. But what kind of effect might this task force have during this transition time, before Biden takes office? “The transition team can do a lot to amplify and reinforce the messages of scientists and public health experts,” said Dr. Kelly Moore, associate director for the Immunization Action Coalition. Moore said Biden’s COVID task force can also “start talking to state leaders and other experts about exactly what they need to equip them to roll out the vaccines effectively.”

What does slower retail sales growth in October mean for the economy?

It is a truism that we repeat time and again at Marketplace: As goes the U.S. consumer, so goes the U.S. economy. And recently, we’ve been seeing plenty of signs of weakness in the consumer economy. Retail sales were up three-tenths of a percent in October, but the gain was weaker than expected and much weaker than September’s. John Leer, an economist at Morning Consult, said a lack of new fiscal stimulus from Congress is dampening consumers’ appetite to spend. So is the pandemic.

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