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Coronavirus stimulus bill a good start

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky. gives

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky. gives a thumbs up as he leaves the Senate chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington on Wednesday, where a deal has been reached on a coronavirus bill. Credit: AP/Andrew Harnik

The $2 trillion stimulus plan to stave off a coronavirus-driven destruction of the nation’s economy is flawed, yet its passage by Congress is a necessity.

The extraordinary financial challenges New York faces as the national epicenter of the pandemic are not fully met by the bill, and there are legitimate objections to the package. But if the stimulus does not pass, if financial markets rallying this week lose momentum, if this fragile political coalition frays, people will lose hope.

The plan should be amended to provide the state of New York more money, but the highest priority is that the plan pass so New York can get the tangible help it provides people, businesses, hospitals and governments, like: 

  • The $1,200 check for each adult and $500 for each child in single-adult households earning less than $75,000 and two-earner ones making less than $150,000 is a crucial lifeline and a boon to consumer confidence. About 65 percent of Long Islander filers will get the full amount, while 18 percent will get partial payments.
  • The unemployment insurance expansion will extend the term of such payments and increase them. New Yorkers will see the top weekly payment of $504 increased to $1,104, and the maximum length of benefits increased from 26 weeks to 39.
  • A $500 billion loan program for large corporations, with debts forgiven if the money is used to keep employees on the payroll, is vital to businesses that will make restarting the economy infinitely easier than if such companies permanently shed workforces.
  • A similar $350 billion fund for small businesses, the most cash-strapped and a crucial sector of the economy, is critical.
  • A $150 billion pot of money specifically targeted for hospitals treating coronavirus patients will help New York health care organizations pay expenses the pandemic is generating and increase medical equipment purchasing.
  • Grants of $4.1 billion to the MTA and $690 million to the Port Authority give those organizations, reeling from unexpected expenses and cratering revenue, a chance at making ends meet. 

All of this is crucial, and the work of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer to bring it to fruition is laudable. Shortcomings in the package, like far too little of the far-too-small $150 billion set aside for state and local governments going to the state of New York, which will receive $3.1 billion, should be fixed in this bill, or else Congress must revisit it later. With sales and income tax collections plummeting and the expenses related to coronavirus mounting, New York faces a budget gap of $9 billion to $15 billion, according to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, and no help but the federal government.

Taken as a whole, this stimulus bill is a rare bipartisan, nationally supported effort to expend tremendous capital on a national problem now centered in New York that has the support of President Donald Trump and, seemingly, both houses of Congress.

The help offered isn’t perfect. But this help cannot be refused.

— The editorial board