‘Our country and economy cannot wait’: 36 bipartisan experts urge Congress to pass a stimulus package with federal unemployment benefits and small-business aid

US Capitol coronavirus
Photo taken on Sept. 2, 2020 shows the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., the United States.
  • A group of bipartisan experts called on Congress to pass an economic-aid package before year-end.
  • "Our country and economy cannot wait until 2021," the Economic Strategy Group said in a letter published Thursday.
  • The letter comes as both parties remain deadlocked on another round of coronavirus relief for people and hard-hit businesses.
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A bipartisan group of 36 top economists, business leaders, and policy experts called on Congress to pass an economic-aid package before the end of the year in a letter published on Thursday. They cited the recent surge of virus cases and the devastation inflicted by the pandemic on the American economy.

The Aspen Institute's Economic Strategy Group said people and businesses were in desperate need of more federal relief.

"Our nation's leaders should act on another round of fiscal relief now," the group wrote. "At the same time, the administration should act aggressively to deploy the unspent resources it already has to combat the virus and support businesses. Our country and economy cannot wait until 2021."

The group laid out several economic-relief measures that should be included in a bipartisan package. The letter listed:

  • "Extended federal government income relief to unemployed individuals."
  • "Enhanced benefits to households who need help buying food."
  • "Measures to help people who are facing potential eviction and homelessness because of pandemic-related income loss."
  • "Fiscal support to state and local governments."
  • "Support to small businesses."

The signatories included Henry Paulson, a Treasury secretary during the George W. Bush administration; Melissa Kearney, an economist and the head of the Economic Strategy Group; Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a former director of the Congressional Budget Office and advisor to Sen. John McCain; and Jason Furman, a top economic advisor to President Barack Obama.

The letter comes as Congress remains deadlocked on another coronavirus relief bill. A wide gulf separates Republicans and Democrats on the shape and size of the next aid package. No negotiations are taking place at the moment.

With President-elect Joe Biden's backing, Democrats are seeking an expansive $3.4 trillion aid plan that includes $1,200 direct payments and $600 federal unemployment benefits, among other measures like virus-test funds.

Republicans support a much slimmer $500 billion relief plan that mostly contains funds for small-business assistance, education, and public-health systems. President Donald Trump has largely withdrawn from lame-duck legislative matters, letting Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell take the lead on coronavirus relief.

Meanwhile, the White House and Congress must approve a dozen spending bills to fund most government agencies by December 11, with those talks ongoing. Both parties continue to try and bridge divisions over public-health funding and childcare, among other issues.

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