After long negotiations, the legislation for the second round of COVID-19 “relief” stimulus has now gone through Congress. Apart from relief funds, it also sets a huge allocation for foreign aid.
By the time details of the negotiations were hammered out, the bill ended up with nearly 6,000 pages. This gives lawmakers not enough time to read through it. Both Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Mitch McConnell pressured members to cram through it.
Both houses of Congress moved swiftly in order to get the bill to President Trump before they leave for the holidays.
The bill combines $900 billion in COVID-19 relief and a $1.4 trillion budget for government spending. It entails a $600 check for American individuals affected financially by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, it also gives out rewards to special interest groups and foreign aid.
Foreign Aid Allocations
Some of the allocations for foreign aid include:
- $169,739,000 for Vietnam. This includes $19 million to provide a remedy for dioxins (p. 1476).
- An unspecified amount for higher education, non-profit institutions in Kabul, Afghanistan. The funds are to help support such institutions to be “accessible to both women and men in a coeducational environment” (p. 1477).
- $198,323,000 for Bangladesh. This includes $23.5 million to help Burmese refugees and another $23.3 million to fund “democracy programs” (p. 1485).
- $130,265,000 to Nepal. This aims to fund “development and democracy programs” (p. 1485).
- $15 million to fund “democracy programs” and another $10 million to support “gender programs” in Pakistan (p. 1486).
- Up to $15 million for Sri Lanka. It aims to fund “the refurbishing of a high endurance cutter,” a type of patrol boat (p. 1489).
- $505,925,000 to Central American countries. The funds aim to help “address key factors that contribute to the migration of unaccompanied, undocumented minors to the United States” (p. 1490-1491).
- $461,375,000 for Colombia. It aims to fund programs related to countering narcotics and supporting human rights (p. 1494-1496).
- $74.8 million to help fund the “Caribbean Basin Security Initiative” (p. 1498).
- $33 million for Venezuela. It aims to help fund “democracy programs” in the country (page 1498).
- Unspecified amount to South American countries including Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, Curacao, and Trinidad and Tobago. It aims to fund “assistance for communities in countries supporting or otherwise impacted by refugees from Venezuela” (p. 1499).
- $132,025,000 of foreign aid for Georgia (p. 1499).
- $453 million of foreign aid for Ukraine (p. 1500).
Apart from the stimulus checks and foreign aid, the bill also includes funding for jobless benefits amounting to $300 per week for 11 weeks. It has also allocated $25 billion for rental assistance, $82 billion for assisting schools and colleges. $284 billion was also set as the budget for more Paycheck Protection Program loans.
COVID-19 Relief Bill Fustrates Legislators
Despite passing Congress, many lawmakers from both parties are not happy with the way the bill was passed. The bill was massive, and the text for it was only posted just a few hours before the House and Senate need to cast their final votes.
Because of this, legislators cannot amend the bill. The COVID-19 “relief” bill became a “take it or leave it” proposition that they are forced to approve or face a government shutdown.
“It’s terrible,” Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.) said. “You wouldn’t have that kind of format in anything. It means we are putting all of that responsibility in a few.”
Meanwhile, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mis.) said. “It’s a mockery of legislation.”
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) was also frustrated with the negotiations. “It’s awful,” he said. “I blame all of us for allowing all of this to happen.”