Will we ever see a second stimulus bill? Lawmakers say something should be done

Will Congress pass another COVID-19 relief bill? Lawmakers seem intent on doing so, but Americans have been left wondering if they’ll ever see it.

The latest attempt, a paired down relief bill proposed by Senate Republicans, failed at the end of last week. It’s unclear if and when another bill could come up.

Meanwhile, people are in need. That need was perhaps best visualized in August when thousands of people lined up at banks and credit unions across Oregon to get a $500 check courtesy of the state.

“It just shows you how this COVID is really affecting people,” said Brian Lee, who was standing in line outside a Gresham OnPoint Community Credit Union location.

Oregon, which allocated $35 million for the relief checks, ran out of money in two-and-a-half days.

Oregon’s unemployment rate is still over 10%. More than 11% of Oregon households failed to pay their full August rent on time, according to Multifamily Northwest, an association of landlords.

Data provided by the U.S. Census shows more than 30% of households across the country had at least some difficulty paying their usual household expenses in late August.

A recent Gallup poll found 70% of Americans support an additional stimulus payment.

With a need for extra federal assistance, how much longer can Americans go without it?

“We can go on, but you will start to see some deterioration of the economic numbers,” said John Tapogna, president of the economic consulting firm, ECONorthwest.

Tapogna said that deterioration will look like layoffs in the public sector, fewer government contracts for private sector work and continued challenges for people hit hardest by the pandemic.

While we saw some rebound in the unemployment rate over the summer, Tapogna said those were “easy gains” from jobs that immediately returned after the initial economic onslaught from the pandemic. Getting back to the pre-COVID unemployment rate will take significantly longer as many parts of the economy are still off limits.

KATU News spoke with U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon, and U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Washington. Both expressed the need to do something for Americans and are frustrated Congress has yet to pass another relief bill.

“I want to see help to Oregonians and all Americans on the fundamentals,” said Merkley. “People are really struggling with housing, rent and mortgage payments, struggling with access to food. They absolutely need the robust unemployment insurance payments that we had arranged before. And I have to tell you, support for state and local government is essential.”

“I want to make sure we extend the Paycheck Protection Program. In southwest Washington, over 9,000 employers have taken advantage of it, and it has saved more than 95,000 jobs,” said Herrera Beutler. “In addition, it’s very obvious that individuals and families are going to need more economic relief.”

Both lawmakers criticized opposing party leadership for inaction over the past few months. Neither could give a timeline on if or when Congress may pass another relief bill. It’s still unclear if Americans will get another stimulus check, like the $1,200 from the CARES Act.

So, KATU News asked both lawmakers the same question: “What is your message to Americans who are still waiting for the relief they feel should be coming?”

“You should be frustrated, you should be angry. I’m frustrated, I’m angry. I can’t believe Mitch McConnell shut down for four months when the nation needs help,” said Merkley.

“Please help me in this effort by contacting your senators, and asking them to support moving something off the Senate floor,” said Herrera Beutler. “In order for this process to move forward, something has to get off the Senate floor.”