A new coronavirus stimulus package is finally set to be passed. The last one expired at the end of July.
The package will reportedly contain $600 stimulus checks and an extra $300 in weekly unemployment benefits.
Initial government relief likely saved millions of Americans from falling into poverty, but as those measures expired and the pandemic dragged on, the percentage of Americans in poverty increased to nearly 12% in November.
The phrase “let them eat cake,” a famous utterance attributed to the out-of-touch ruling class from the French Revolution, trended in response to the apparently inadequate $600 stimulus check.
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The latest coronavirus stimulus package is finally set to be passed on Monday, following months of back and forth and negotiations.The $900 billion package will reportedly include $600 stimulus checks, an extra $300 in weekly unemployment benefits, and billions in food and rental assistance. The Internet seems angry about how this aid compares — or doesn’t — to the last stimulus.The phrase “let them eat cake” was trending on Twitter on Monday, as some users said the $600 felt dismissive and inadequate in light of many Americans’ struggles since the last round of checks went out nearly seven months ago. “Let them eat cake,” of course, was a quote famously attributed during the French Revolution to Marie Antoinette when she heard that people were starving because of a famine. “Unfortunately for so many people in need the $600 stimulus check is the equivalent of Marie Antoinette’s ‘Let them eat cake,'” according to a popular tweet, with nearly 7,000 likes over 18 hours, from a user named Anthony Zagelow. “Congress is completely out of touch with the people.”
The prior stimulus bill, the CARES Act, likely kept 12 million Americans out of poverty, according to research conducted in the summer of 2020. Its programs were roughly double as generous as the new package, including an additional $600 a week in unemployment benefits and a $1,200 stimulus check for many Americans. Insider’s Josh Barro has noted that the new package’s enhanced unemployment benefits are shorter in duration, only set to last for 10 weeks versus 16 weeks under the CARES Act.Poverty rates dipped in March and April, and the median checking balance for Americans rose by 65% in April, as the first round of stimulus checks was distributed. Personal income spiked in April. But the story began to change in May. The median amount that Americans had in their checking balances began to fall, as did their personal incomes. On July 31, the additional $600 in unemployment benefits expired.Since June, about 7.8 million Americans have fallen below the poverty line, according to a report from researchers at the University of Notre Dame and the University of Chicago. As of November 2020, the poverty rate was 11.7% — an increase of 2.4% from June.
And that increase in poverty had its own inequities, per the report. The poverty rate for Black Americans rose by 3.1%. Those with a high school education or less also saw a significant increase, from 17% in June to 22.1% in November.”The estimates also suggest that poverty rose more in states with less effective unemployment insurance systems,” the report’s authors write.The new unemployment measures and stimulus check will certainly offer some relief for the millions of unemployed Americans — although many states saw their unemployment programs break down or falter during the pandemic.The new checks are set to start hitting accounts early next week, according to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. He said he “couldn’t be more pleased” with the deal.
$600 checks criticized as not enough — even by President TrumpThe $600 checks themselves (which will only be $600 in full for those made less than $75,000 last year) may not go a long way. As Insider’s Tanza Loudenback reported, a $600 check could last the average American homeowner between six to seven days. It will last the average renter almost 11 days. Even President Donald Trump himself reportedly pushed for larger checks. The Washington Post reported that aides had to talk Trump out of calling for $2,000 payments so as not to disrupt stimulus negotiations. However, as Insider’s Joseph Zeballos-Roig reported, Trump continued to indicate support for larger payments.Users on Twitter had similar thoughts. “Trump and his MAGA cult told the American people… #LetThemEatCake,” tweeted actress Angela Belcamino, who went on to refer to the $600 as a “joke.” Politicians in both parties expressed similar sentiments.
Former presidential candidate Andrew Yang, a Democrat, tweeted his thoughts on the $600 checks: “I think sending everyone $600 will make it clear that we could also have sent everyone a significantly larger amount.” And Sen. Josh Hawley, a Republican representing Missouri, tweeted out: “The negotiators are saying they could only find enough $$ for $600/ person relief checks for working people. But mark my words, there will be hundreds of BILLIONS spent on special interests, banks, and government.”Then there were those who had another emblem of the French Revolution in mind: “Guillotines for sale,” one user tweeted. “$600. cash only.”