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'I feel less bad': Sen. Coons says relief bill not enough, but a compromise

Sophia Schmidt, Delaware Public Media

Congress passed a roughly $900 billion coronavirus relief bill Monday. Sen. Chris Coons is already looking to the next one.

The deal includes $600 direct payments for adults and children in certain income thresholds, an extension of enhanced jobless benefits, rent and food assistance and money for loans to businesses. 

But Coons says many of the provisions—including the direct payments— don’t go far enough. 

“We are going to need a robust stimulus package,” Coons said Tuesday. “This isn’t a stimulus package, this is just getting us through the next few months, and is frankly catching up on things we should have done months ago.”

Coons says another relief bill will be needed by March. He notes the one that passed Monday was a compromise. 

“This was a maddening months-long impasse,” Coons said. “It shouldn't have taken this long. And we are going to have to promptly begin working on the next package, which will need to pass some time in February.”

The bill does not include additional funding for state and local governments. But it does extend the deadline for them to spend the original coronavirus relief funds they got this spring. 

Coons says this is “key,” as states like Delaware have struggled to get some of these funds out the door by the original deadline of Dec. 30, 2020. 

“I feel less bad,” Coons said. “We’ve expanded SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits, we’ve extended support for food banks and for hungry Americans. But there are far too many hungry Americans. Eight million Americans joined the ranks of the poor in the United States just in the last few months.”

The massive year-end spending bill passed at the same time also includes what’s being called the most significant climate change law in a decade. 

It includes billions of dollars to promote clean energy and provisions to reduce use of coolants that contribute to global warming.

Coons calls it a “big and bold bill” that was a long time coming.

“These provisions represent the future of climate solutions, finding ways that the federal government can help to save our planet from the climate crisis while creating hundreds of thousands of new manufacturing jobs,” Sen. Tom Carper, top Democrat on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said in a statement Monday night. “Make no mistake, these provisions will soon be some of the most significant climate legislation to pass out of Congress to date—and we’re just getting started.”


Sophia Schmidt is a Delaware native. She comes to Delaware Public Media from NPR’s Weekend Edition in Washington, DC, where she produced arts, politics, science and culture interviews. She previously wrote about education and environment for The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, MA. She graduated from Williams College, where she studied environmental policy and biology, and covered environmental events and local renewable energy for the college paper.
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