Congress returned to work this week with two major things on its plate: pass a budget bill to avoid a government shutdown and get to work on another stimulus bill legislators have been talking about for months.
Congress has until Dec. 11 to pass a budget bill, but there is no timeline on another stimulus package, as both Democrats and Republicans have failed to agree to terms on one.
“I just want, more than anything, to be represented by people that understand,” said Ryan Nisly.
In March, Nisly lost his job bartending. Only a few weeks later, he found a new one. But after the most recent round of shutdowns in his home state of Colorado, he has been relegated to working 5-10 hours a week.
“I’ve had some bad moments,” said Nisly. “No matter your amount of resolve, it’s not enough sometimes if the entire deck is stacked against you.”
Nisly, like so many millions of Americans, says he has been waiting for Congress to act and pass another stimulus bill. Since the CARES Act pumped more than $2 trillion into the U.S. economy in late March, including a $1,200 stimulus check to most Americans, Congress has stumbled to give any sort of meaningful relief to those, like Nisly, who need it.
The Economic Policy Institute estimates between now and 2022, $2 trillion in relief is needed, with an additional $400 billion annually through the end of 2024.
“Americans could hardly be more cynical about government and its inability to act and this is a perfect example,” said Howard Gleckman, a fiscal policy expert at the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center.
Gleckman says despite the need for financial help, he thinks the prospect of a new stimulus bill, with individual stimulus checks, is bleak at best until President-elect Joe Biden is sworn into office on Jan. 20.
He says Democrats and Republicans are having trouble agreeing on where money from a stimulus should go. Republicans want a smaller package, while Democrats want a larger one that gives money to cities that have been hit by declining tax revenue.
“It’s really pretty simple. It’s not about substance; it’s all about politics,” said Gleckman. “I think the best bet is that they’ll make an effort at this [and] fail. Sometime in the next week or so, [probably] at the last minute on Dec. 10, Congress will pass a budget bill and then go home.”
Editor's Note: A previous version of this article incorrectly identified Howard Gleckman as Harold. This article has been updated to reflect the correction.