Hashtags such as #LetThemEatCake and $600IsNotEnough scorched social media as US lawmakers reached a deal that dismayed workaday Americans needing and expecting more. Angry workers berated both Republican and Democrat lawmakers for the measly payout, taunting them about their expansive lifestyle and comparing the stimulus with more generous ones in other developed countries.
“Think of all the cake we can eat with $600,” one tweet sneered, while others called the package “pathetic” and “unconscionable” given that it is only 50 per cent of the $ 1200 stimulus check offered in the first round several months ago. Lawmakers pledged more help is on the way. But given the fractious politics that resulted in partisan wrangling which took nine months to resolve, there is skepticism about the promise.
Analysts said the aid package, which will include a federal weekly unemployment check of $300 for 11 weeks in addition to the one time $600 payment, comes too late to save many families and businesses that have gone under. The package will also bring a new round of subsidies for hard-hit businesses and money for schools, health care providers and renters facing eviction, but it may be too little too late.
Besides fury over the delay in relief, there is anger at lawmakers sneaking in a tax break for corporate meal expenses — dubbed the “three-martini lunch” — in the guise of helping the restaurant business, even as benefits for workers have been halved.
The anger over the slow and tardy pace of pandemic relief came amid the more rapid rollout of vaccines, although there is concern even there about its efficacy given news of a mutant strain emerging from Britain.
Vivek Murthy, US President-elect Joe Biden’s pick for Surgeon General, said there is no evidence to suggest that the variant reported in the UK is any deadlier than the original one, and no reason to believe that the coronavirus vaccines that have already been developed would not be effective against the new strain as well. But a spooked market braced for fallout from more travel curbs that the U.S is expected to impose against U.K., following steps by other EU countries.
Meanwhile in US, healthcare workers and residents and staff of long-term care facilities are getting the first COVID-19 shots as the pace of vaccination picks up. A federal panel said on Sunday that grocery store employees, teachers, emergency workers and other people on the front lines should be next to get the vaccine, along with adults 75 and older.
US stimulus package
* Direct one-time payments of $600 to most adults earning less than $75k per annum and $600 per child. Thus a family of four could get $ 2400. Payment decreases for those who earned more than $75,000 in the 2019 tax year. No payment for those who made more than $99,000.
* A $300 per week unemployment supplement for jobless workers for 11 weeks The benefit could kick in by December 27 and run through March 14.
*$284 billion for government payroll loans, including $15 billion for live venues, independent movie theaters, and cultural institutions.
* $82 billion for colleges and schools, including support for heating and air-conditioning upgrades to control virus transmission and reopen classrooms, and $10 billion for child care assistance.