Congress, WH need to be ready
Members of Congress were wise to pause their campaign of priming the economic pump to counter the effects of the coronavirus epidemic. Nearly three trillion dollars in aid to individuals, families, businesses and local and state governments needed to be given time to work before more federal spending was authorized.
But it may be time to talk about a second round of stimulus — to counter a second round of COVID-19 infections.
Americans have begun, but only that, to reopen the economy after massive shutdowns this spring. Though millions have returned to work, the number still receiving unemployment benefits last week topped 20.5 million. That is unsustainable.
By early May, it appeared COVID-19 was on the run in the United States. The daily count of new cases had dropped dramatically. That spurred many governors to lift restrictions, including those on businesses.
Now, however, the disease is spiking again in many regions of the country. That may prompt some public health officials to recommend a new round of shutdowns. In fact, a significant number of businesses that had been permitted to reopen did not, because of owners’ and managers’ concern about the coronavirus.
If indeed a resurgence is upon us, the economy — and more specifically, millions of Americans who have exhausted benefits already received — will need help.
Members of Congress and the White House should be ready with a new assistance bill, if it proves to be needed. Such legislation simply must be crafted on a bipartisan basis. It also must be limited to concrete aid to people and businesses that need it, without unrelated provisions that would cost money and be politically controversial.
Taking the safe route of refusing to restart the economy until COVID-19 was beaten was not practical. Thoughtful Americans understood that. They also recognized that reopening while the virus remained active was taking a risk.
Blunting the consequences of accepting that risk needs to be viewed as a priority by both Democrats and Republicans in Washington.