COVID Relief Bill
COVID-19 has moved fast and hundreds of thousands of lives have been lost and immediate response is necessary to help those in need. The pandemic has left citizens scared with newfound vulnerability of their source of income, food, and housing security, and other negative implications, especially marginalized communities. Under the Biden administration, after eight months of endurance, Congress passed the much needed American Rescue Plan, a $900 billion COVID-relief and $1.4 trillion government funding package that gives critical pandemic aid to Americans. Though a monumental and historic piece of legislation, there are some concerning provisions that need to be addressed. We should be spending federal dollars more efficiently on resources that would benefit the people and further our nation’s recovery post-pandemic.
Payroll tax cut for businesses experiencing net loss
Though Section 602(c)(2)(A) of the Covid Relief Bill says that states cannot specifically use federal relief funds to finance tax cuts, I believe if a company is losing money or experiencing net loss, there should be some forgiveness on the payroll tax. A payroll tax cut, if enacted for employers, could prevent employee layoffs and stimulate the economy by getting people to work during the coronavirus crisis.
According to Harvey Bezozi, an IRS tax expert, lifting the burden of the employer payroll tax from their shoulders might help businesses keep people on the payroll, allowing these businesses to stay afloat so they can hit the ground running when things improve. Hence, the US Treasury Department should make it clear that the state’s tax cuts be used for purposes of helping individuals and families deal with economic hardship and of helping businesses survive the pandemic should be permissible.
Resources and policies must focus on small business retention and maintaining employees long-term so these companies can survive and the economy can begin to recover once more. To further help businesses, we should allow state laws to conform to federal legislation that allows businesses that have had PPP loans forgiven to exclude the forgiven loans from their income while being able to claim tax
$1.5B Funding for Amtrak
An unfair allocation of funds
One clause of the American Rescue Plan is giving $1.5 billion to Amtrak. Though investing in our country’s infrastructure and public transportation is always important, Amtrak specifically is not an efficient use of federal funds. With more technological advances in public transportation, train travel is becoming an outdated mode of transportation. Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic did not specifically cause problems in Amtrak. According to Frank Hill in this North State Journal article, AMTRAK has never been profitable since inception in 1971. Amtrak has received a disproportionate share of federal transportation funding for decades and more funds should be available for other regions such as the Bay Area.
Arts and Humanities Funding
$470M for Institute of Museum and Library Services
and the National Endowment for the Arts and Humanities
Another part of the recent bill gives $470 million to the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the National Endowment for the Arts and Humanities. Funding the arts and humanities sector would provide jobs for those who work in this area and inspire creativity in the community as well. Museums, libraries, and other arts/humanities programs also offer creative outlets and fun leisure activities for those who want an escape from these difficult times. However, funding these programs would have a less direct impact on the country’s recovery from the pandemic. In fact, according to Andrew Andrzejewski, the Institute of Museum and Library Services is so small it doesn’t even employ an inspector general. Investing in this sector is not as much of a priority right now because there is no immediate pay off, so I believe that funding other public resources like public health, education, housing, and other programs would be more beneficial for the country at this moment. It’s imperative to promote causes like affordable healthcare programs to stimulate the economy and stop financial penury for the most vulnerable people in our country and invest in affordable health care coverage to stop the crisis and heal the nation.