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January 17, 2021

Covid relief bill stalls as Trump demands more

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Congress on Monday approved a $900 billion, 5,000-page federal package that could be a boon to California, which like all other states is struggling under the weight of an economy wracked by the Covid-19 pandemic.

If signed by President Donald Trump, it will provides $8.5 billion for schools, according to CalMatters. 

In addition, the package includes $20 billion in unemployment assistance, $2 billion in rental assistance and $2 billion for transportation infrastructure. There is also $1 billion for childcare assistance.

It also includes $1.3 billion for Covid-19 testing and contact tracing, and a one-time payment of $600 to many Californians.

The money will also help Gov. Gavin Newsom in his efforts to help tenants struggling to stave off evictions. California businesses will receive a portion of the $325 billion allotted to help small businesses nationwide open. 

Newsom will announce his new budget in January.

But Trump on Tuesday said he instead wanted $2,000 payments, and indicated he would not sign the bill without it.

“It really is a disgrace,” Trump said of the stimulus in a video posted to Twitter Tuesday. He also called the $600 payment “ridiculously low.”

Analysts say that failure of the funding bill could lead to 12 million people losing unemployment aid, and could mean that and the government shuts down.

Trump said that, despite being called the “Covid Relief Bill,” it includes $85.5 million in assistance to Cambodia, $134  million to Burma, and $1.3 billion for Egypt, which he said the country would use to purchase weapons from Russia.

In addition, Trump said the bill includes money for the Smithsonian in Washington DC and the National Gallery of Art, which he said “are not even open.”

It also includes money for programs such as reef fish management and fish breeding in federal hatcheries, Trump said, adding that the bill would allow “illegal aliens” to get stimulus payments.

“Congress found plenty of money for foreign countries, lobbyists and special interests, while sending the bare minimum to the American people who need it.”

Trump’s insistence on the increased amount for Americans put him in rare agreement with Democratic lawmakers such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who said she planned to push for the larger payments on Thursday.

If the House approved the payments, it would still need unanimous approval from the Republican-led Senate, which could be a long-shot.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) told Fox News that passing out “free money” to people is a “really foolish egg-headed, left-wing, socialist idea.

“So I part ways with the president on giving people free money,” Paul said. 

If lawmakers fail to act, or if Trump vetoes the legislation, the responsibility of producing a new economic stimulus package will fall to the Biden Administration, Trump said. 

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