US watchdog urges improvements to relief bill


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A non-partisan US watchdog group said that the House of Representatives-approved $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief bill includes measures not directly related to the pandemic, urging the Senate to pass a better targeted one.

Commenting on the giant relief bill that cleared the House on February 27, Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, said in a statement that while some of the funds would go to key priorities, it is clear that the targeting of this bill could be improved, reports Xinhua news agency.

"It directs significant resources to those who have not been harmed by the pandemic or recession. Those policies may be popular or sensible, but they do not belong in this emergency bill," MacGuineas said.

"Specifically, state and local government budgets aren't in anywhere near as dire a situation as initially projected."

The $1.9 trillion package includes $350 billion dollars to help pandemic-hit state and local governments balance their budgets.

MacGuineas argued that the third round of rebate checks will go to many households that "don't need them", right as US incomes continue to "show strong growth".

According to data released last week by the Bureau of Economic Analysis, personal income soared 10 per cent in January, and personal consumption expenditures increased 2.4 per cent.

"Furthermore, the bill directs a substantial amount of funds to unrelated political objectives that have been around for years," MacGuineas noted.

The watchdog group estimated that the relief package includes at least $312 billion of policies that "have little to do with the current crisis".

Among the unrelated provisions are a pension bailout, expansions of the Child Tax Credit, the Earned Income Tax Credit, and the child care tax credit; an increase in the minimum wage to $15 an hour; and Affordable Care Act expansions, according to the group.

"These may be worthwhile proposals, but they should not be stuck in legislation intended to help deal with this emergency -- particularly if they are intended to last beyond this crisis," MacGuineas said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi however, said in a statement that the relief plan is "coronavirus-centric", as it delivers the "decisive action" that families and small businesses demand and need.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said on Twitter that as an economist and an American, she applauds "the House's favourable vote on the American Rescue Plan".

"There's a broad consensus among economists: people need more help putting food on the table and keeping a roof over their head until the virus is under control. This plan does that," she said.

MacGuineas said that as the bill goes to the Senate, hopefully lawmakers will use this opportunity to reflect on "how much aid we've already provided, what's necessary to accelerate vaccinations, and where additional fiscal relief will do the most good".

According to the group's analysis, Congress has allocated around $4 trillion of Covid-19 relief at a net cost of over $3.4 trillion since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

"Adding to the deficit still comes with risk and should be done judiciously," MacGuineas said.

"A better targeted relief bill would still get money where it's needed without making our long-term fiscal outlook worse than it needs to be."
Source: IANS

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