Democrats and Republicans are debating whether to provide another round of economic assistance as the Omicron strain of COVID-19 spreads at an alarming rate throughout the United States.
According to the Washington Post, lawmakers are considering authorizing up to $68 billion in funding to aid businesses that have been struck particularly hard as a result of employees who have called in sick, according to the report.
Even though work on the idea began in December, it is still in the early stages of discussion, and if the proposal makes it to the floor of the House or Senate, it could face a difficult uphill struggle.
A bipartisan group of senators, led by Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), is driving the campaign, which would target a variety of enterprises, from restaurants and gyms to entertainment venues and minor-league baseball teams.
It’s unclear how much money if any, would be allocated to small firms in the same manner that the Payroll Protection Plan was allocated to them last year.
At this time, there are no reported discussions concerning the possibility of another round of government stimulus checks for people, such as the $1,400 that were distributed last year.
As reported by the Washington Post, Cardin and Wicker are working with their respective political parties to gain support for their proposal, which would pull money in part from past packages that had unused funds after they were completed.
The Republican-controlled Congress has previously rejected attempts to provide assistance to restaurants because of concerns about cost.
That was, of course, before Omicron struck. The virus has already taken over as the causative agent in 95 percent of COVID-19 cases in the United States, a feat accomplished in just one month.
According to data provided by Johns Hopkins University, the United States set a new pandemic record on Monday by registering more than 1 million new infections. The number of new infections has more than doubled in the last week.
Even the potential for a stimulus package represents a significant shift for the United States Congress. Last March, the concept appeared to be all but extinct, with administration officials pointing to the American Rescue Plan and the Child Tax Credit from the previous year as potential replacements.
However, with more than 15,000 canceled flights since Christmas Eve and companies and institutions closing their doors once more, legislators are more open to the idea of discussing it with the public.
On Monday, President Joe Biden advised people who haven’t been vaccinated to get one, while also attempting to reassure those who have already done so.
It’s important to be cautious about Omicron, but not alarmed, he said.