Congress has stalled a new stimulus deal with $1,200 payments for 5 months. But the GOP-led Senate plans to confirm Trump's Supreme Court pick in 2 weeks.
Judge Amy Coney Barrett, Supreme Court nominee for President Donald Trump, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Erin Schaff-Pool / Getty Images
Congress has not agreed on a new coronavirus agreement for over five months.
However, the Republican-led Senate is swiftly seeking hearings to confirm Judge Amy Coney Barrett, President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee.
Tens of millions of Americans are now struggling financially with the pandemic with no additional federal support.
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Like tens of millions of Americans, Rachel Murphy is still in financial pain six months after the pandemic and feels abandoned by elected leaders who have brought no additional relief.
"It's almost like a slap in the face they don't care about when many are unemployed right now," said Murphy, a 28-year-old Massachusetts resident who has been looking for a job since the two restaurants she worked in March .
Congress hasn't reached an agreement on a new COVID-19 bailout package in over five months - and most of the benefits of the $ 3 trillion legislation passed in the spring have dried up.
Murphy used up her savings to make ends meet after the $ 600 additional weekly unemployment income she was given expired in late July.
"Ideally, I want the scholarship to come back because who knows how long I'll be unemployed," Murphy told Insider. "It was very difficult - emotionally stressful - not being able to do what I really want to do and not making money."
Rachel Murphy, 28, works at the Field Pub in Cambridge, Massachusetts on St. Patrick's Day on March 17, 2019. Courtesy Rachel Murphy
Unemployment has risen due to the public health crisis, although the unemployment rate fell from a historic high in April. The Labor Department said Thursday that more than 800,000 initial unemployment claims had been filed in the week that ended last Saturday.
In short, roughly twice as many people are unemployed as they were before the pandemic - roughly 12 million people.
Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said this week that "there is still a long way to go" and that the pace could slow dramatically without proper government assistance.
But negotiations between top Democrats and Republicans have slackened for months, so it's unlikely that more support for struggling Americans will be available anytime soon. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin remain in talks, although it is unclear whether they will reach a comprehensive deal before election day as President Donald Trump has ended negotiations.
Trump has instead instructed the GOP-led Senate to continue to focus on filling the vacant Supreme Court seat vacated three weeks ago by the death of Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has pledged to swiftly approve Trump's candidate, Judge Amy Coney Barrett.
The shift in agenda is a clear cut from Americans' priorities. Polls conducted over the past few months have found that most Americans have increased federal spending to fight the recession. In recent polls, respondents broadly indicated that Barrett's hearings should be postponed until after the election for confirmation. In a recent poll of registered voters conducted by Hill / HarrisX, 74% said the Senate should pass a new stimulus bill before approving Barrett.
The Field Pub is permanently closed in July. Courtesy Rachel Murphy
"A country completely in crisis"
That the heads of state and government are ready to press ahead with a nomination for the Supreme Court but cannot reach an agreement on the relief of coronavirus is "not the least bit surprising," said Carmine Di Maro, 26, who is also concerned about the pandemic has become unemployed.
"We have a country that is completely in crisis," he said. "It's not a problem that affects the people who make these decisions."
After losing his income to freelance production appearances in Los Angeles, Di Maro started looking for cheaper places to live in the city. He's moved four times in six months and is like his friend's in Detroit. He said the lone direct federal payment of $ 1,200 sent earlier this year was "super helpful," but he hopes more will come soon.
"My goal is to be able to afford my own rent now. I just can't," Di Maro told Insider. "If another stimulus package has not been passed, it is very difficult to imagine."
About 30 to 40 million renters could be evicted on December 31, when an eviction moratorium expires. House Democrats passed a revised $ 2.2 trillion bill last week that aims to extend the moratorium by one year despite Republicans and White House opposition to the legislation.
Volunteers packing groceries in a warehouse for the Capital Area Food Bank. Courtesy of the Capital Area Food Bank
Also included in the house bill is a 15% increase in the benefits of grocery stamps, providing an additional $ 25 for each recipient. Northwestern University researchers found that 23% of US households were food insecure earlier this year.
But the Senate Republicans voted down the Democrats' bill and failed to include a similar provision in their own bill last month.
"If the federal government pulls out, it will put significant pressure on food banks across the country as we move into the fall and winter," said Radha Muthiah, president and CEO of the Capital Area Food Bank, which serves Washington, DC, Maryland and Northern Virginia.
The food bank has been grappling with a surge in demand for the past six months that has not stopped. For September, Muthiah said it provided 75% more food than the same month in 2019.
"I think it is important that the benefits provided in the recent stimulus packages continue until the economy is back to normal or near normal," Muthiah told Insider. "At this point, as we speak in October, we are not back to normal. People are still struggling and will need the support they have received from the federal government for some time to come."
Republican lawmakers have largely ignored repeated requests for relief but stated that they will stick to an expedited schedule of affirming a Supreme Court justice. The Senate Judiciary Committee plans to begin confirmation hearings on Monday, despite two of its members, Sens. Mike Lee and Thom Tillis, testing positive for COVID-19.
Committee chairman Senator Lindsey Graham has indicated that he expects the committee to approve Barrett on October 22nd. McConnell has indicated that he will then hold a vote as soon as possible, which means Barrett could be appointed to the country's highest court after a two-week affirmation.
"It's crazy that they're rushing to do this before the election," Murphy said. "They didn't care about their people. And that's the most frustrating part."
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