Under a plan advanced by a bipartisan group including senators earlier in the week, Congress would approve a $908 billion package that includes money for a wide variety of needs.
Of particular note is the $160 billion for state and local governments. That’s about what was approved in the last big COVID relief bill, the CARES Act, in the spring, and the state ended up getting $5.5 billion from it, some of which was parceled out to local governments.
The state and city say they badly need the money to replace tax revenue lost to COVID, the state borrowing up to $5 billion from the Federal Reserve Bank and the city going into the short-term lending market and potentially refinancing billions in city debt to free up cash.
The pending bill also has $45 billion for transportation, something that both the Chicago Transit ity and Metra are counting on, and which both O’Hare International Airport and its carriers want.
Durbin noted the bill also includes $35 billion for hospitals and $16 billion to produce and distribute the new vaccines that are beginning to come online. Equally needed, he said, are extended but cut back unemployment benefits, and funds to help small businesses meet costs at least through March. Direct aid to small business under the bill is $288 billion, including an extension of the Payroll Protection Program that so far has funneled $23 billion to Illinois companies, according to Durbin.
Even so, Democrats have cut back on what they wanted to try to strike a deal and answer Republican concerns that the nation is going too far into debt, the Senate’s number two ranking Democrat said. “There’s plenty of blame on both sides,” he added. “We’ve tried to find the sweet spot.”
Durbin said the liability waiver is not needed now and urged Republicans to postpone discussion until later. It’s far from certain that will fly.
Durbin and other sources say President Donald Trump is inclined to sign the bill if it reaches his desk.
Durbin spoke on a day when U.S. job growth appeared to slow because of rising COVID infections, a sign according to some analysts that more help is needed if the country is to avoid more permanent economic damage.