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Alabama Arise: Republican COVID-19 relief bill was “wholly inadequate”

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The scaled-back COVID-19 relief plan offered by Senate Republicans that failed to pass on Thursday didn’t do nearly enough to address real needs of everyday Americans, said U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama. 

His sentiments on the failed bill were backed by the nonprofit poverty advocacy group, Alabama Arise, whose executive director, Robyn Hyden, in a statement Thursday  described the Republican plan as “wholly inadequate.” 

“The bill that failed in the Senate this week was wholly inadequate to meet the size and scope of suffering that the COVID-19 pandemic has inflicted across Alabama and across our country. Lawmakers shouldn’t leave Washington without approving an adequate, long-term deal to help struggling Americans make ends meet,” Hyden said. 

Hyden said the plan didn’t do nearly enough to help states avoid cuts to education and Medicaid, would have cut the federal increase to unemployment benefits in half and had no nutrition or housing assistance.

“Congress needs to step up and do its job by protecting people from harm. Last month’s executive actions were nothing more than a Band-Aid over a gaping economic wound. And any so-called relief bill that doesn’t help people keep food on the table and a roof over their heads is no relief bill at all,” Hyden continued. 

Democrats passed the $3 trillion COVID-19 relief bill in May, but McConnell declined to take it up in the Senate or use it as a starting point for negotiations with Democrats, Jones said in a statement posted to his Twitter account. 

Instead, McConnell released his plan for approximately $1.1 trillion worth of relief, but those series of packages never made it to a vote because McConnell couldn’t get the support of enough other Republican legislators. Instead, the session ended with no vote on any package. McConnell’s package included no second direct $1,200 payment to individuals, relief aid supported by both the White House and Democrats. 

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“We come back, and what do we come back to? We come back with a proposal he’s had to buy his way back into with his Republican caucus. He’s had to buy his way down by giving less than half of what he was doing,” Jones said. “It provides no rental assistance for anyone. It provides no housing assistance. It shortchanges healthcare and education in this country.” 

“It has nothing for city and local governments, which I have been championing,” Jones continued. “And as you all know our city and local governments are going to have to start furloughing workers right now, which is going to cause our unemployment to go up. 

“We have too many things to do to play these games. We have too many people hurting out there to play these political games,” Jones said. “The question is going to be with Mitch McConnell now. What is he going to do?” 

“Hopefully we’ll get some people talking. I’ve got to tell you, with this guy I’m not optimistic,” Jones said of McConnell. 

The vote on McConnell’s paired-down bill failed on a 52-47 vote, with one Republican, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, voting with Democrats against the bill, which included $650 billion in spending, but repurposed approximately $350 billion of previous spending, bringing the total of new aid to around $300 billion, according to The Washington Post

In Alabama, new unemployment claims filed last week increased from the week before, while 51 percent of those claims were related to COVID-19. State health experts are watching new COVID-19 cases closely, following the Labor Day weekend and increasing numbers of school children and college students attending classes in person.

Eddie Burkhalter is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or reach him via Twitter.

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