All aboard the coronabus

This piece was originally published in the December 21, 2020 edition of CAP Action’s daily newsletter, the Progress Report. Subscribe to the Progress Report here.

Photo by Darren Halstead on Unsplash

“450 pennies a day for the last nine months.”

Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), fed up with the lack of sufficient federal support throughout this crisis

This holiday season looks different, but there are ways to make sure that we celebrate it safely.

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  • After a long month of negotiations and many more months without a drop of new assistance from the federal government, we have a pandemic relief bill. Rather, we have a combined pandemic relief and omnibus government funding bill — or as reporters and Hill staffers have dubbed it, the “coronabus.” It’s 5,593 pages long, and according to one reporter’s calculations, you’d need to clock 560 pages an hour to read the entire document between its release and midnight tonight.
  • The principles of the final deal were announced last night, but it wasn’t until this afternoon that anyone — including members of Congress — actually saw the bill text. In peak 2020 fashion, Congressional staffers had to troubleshoot an issue with the PDF file that briefly delayed the legislation’s release before it became available to the public. Now, we’re waiting on both chambers to review and debate the bill before it is expected to go up for a vote late (as in, very late) tonight.
  • What’s in the bill? To put it simply, it’s a compromise. Senate Republican leaders did their worst to make this a bill for corporations rather than for working people. Thankfully, they weren’t entirely successful. Americans will get direct payments, just not nearly the amount they need. We’ll get unemployment aid, but it’s just half of what was previously passed. Most of the toxic and anti-worker policies conservatives had been pushing for didn’t make it into the bill, but they did manage to cut billions in much-needed state and local aid out of the deal and slip in their “three-martini lunch” deduction for corporate meal expenses. All as the pandemic is growing increasingly worse, surpassing new records every day and blowing the already dark spring months out of the water.
  • So we’re getting stimulus checks again. But for how much? This time around, the one-time checks for those earning $75,000 or less per year will be in the amount of $600. Once again: Good that we are getting checks at all, bad that they’re only for this wildly insufficient amount. Seriously — $600 couldn’t pay one month of the average rent in any state, based on 2019 data. We’ll take what we can get, but we’ll also be on the lookout for a serious relief package and executive actions to curb this disaster once the Biden administration takes office next month.
  • Joe Biden got his coronavirus vaccine this afternoon at a Delaware hospital. Biden live-streamed the event as part of his effort to sow confidence in the vaccination process and make sure Americans trust that it is safe and effective. Dr. Jill Biden was also vaccinated this morning.


  • On Sunday night, the Centers for Disease Control released their next round of recommendations to help states determine who should receive early doses of the coronavirus vaccine. After health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities, this second priority tier includes frontline workers — like teachers, first responders, correctional workers, and grocery store employees — and people 75 years of age or older.
  • One group that was left out of this tier is incarcerated people, who have experienced outbreaks similar to those seen in nursing homes. According to the AP, 1 in every 5 people locked up in state and federal prisons has contracted COVID-19. That’s more than four times the rate for the general population. But while the parallels between outbreaks at nursing homes and prisons clearly point to them receiving equal priority for vaccination, that hasn’t been the case.
  • Nursing home residents and employees were at the very front of the line to get vaccinated, but only the employees of jails and prisons — not the residents — would be prioritized in the second tier of CDC recommendations. It’s ultimately up to each state to outline their specific plan for vaccination, so be sure to stay up to date with the latest where you live.
  • President-elect Biden announced additions to his economic team today, rounding out his picks for the National Economic Council. Notable appointments include Obama alum David Kamin as deputy director of the NEC, longtime Elizabeth Warren aide Bharat Ramamurti as deputy NEC director for financial reform and consumer protection, and Joelle Gamble of the Roosevelt Institute as special assistant to the president for economic policy.
  • A statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee was removed from the U.S. Capitol early this morning. Prior to its removal, the statue had stood in the nation’s capital for 111 years before Virginia’s governor pushed for it to be removed as part of a reckoning with America’s brutal history of racism and white supremacy. Lee will now be replaced by Barbara Johns, who in 1951 spoke out about her segregated school in Farmville, VA and became part of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case which ruled school segregation unconstitutional.


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