U.S. budget watchdog group urges improvements to House-approved COVID-19 relief bill
WASHINGTON, Feb. 27 (Xinhua) -- The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a nonpartisan watchdog group, said Saturday that the House-approved 1.9-trillion-U.S.-dollar 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 early Saturday morning, Maya MacGuineas, president of the watchdog group, 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.
"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," she said.
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 U.S. incomes continue to "show strong growth."
According to data released Friday by the Bureau of Economic Analysis, personal income soared 10 percent in January, and personal consumption expenditures increased 2.4 percent.
"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 1.9-trillion relief package includes at least 312 billion dollars 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 dollars 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, the top Democrat in the chamber, however, said in a statement Saturday that the relief plan is "coronavirus-centric," as it delivers the "decisive action" that families and small businesses demand and need.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said Saturday on Twitter that as an economist and an American, she applauds "the House's favorable 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.
U.S. President Joe Biden on Saturday urged the Senate to quickly pass the 1.9-trillion relief package. "Now the bill moves to the United States Senate where I hope it will receive quick action ... we have no time to waste," Biden said at the White House.
"If we act now -- decisively, quickly, and boldly -- we can finally get ahead of this virus. We can finally get our economy moving again," Biden 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, U.S. Congress has allocated around 4 trillion dollars of COVID-19 relief at a net cost of over 3.4 trillion dollars 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."[ Editor: WXL ]