The $2 trillion stimulus package passed by the Senate Wednesday night provides enormous loans to airlines and other businesses as well as rebates of $1,200 to most low- and middle-income U.S. adults. But the legislation bars an important group from receiving rebates: elderly and disabled adults who are financially dependent on family members. The result is that the largest aid package in U.S. history — intended to afford relief from the consequences of COVID-19 — gives nothing at all to millions of people in the population segment most vulnerable to the novel coronavirus.
Throughout the debate over the bailout bill, senators offered no explanation for this striking omission. The cost of extending rebates to elderly and disabled dependents would have been well less than 1% of the package’s total price tag. But even while they allowed up to $50 billion for airlines and a $17 billion set-aside reportedly written for Boeing, senators refused to provide a dime in direct aid to elderly and disabled individuals who rely financially on family members.
There is, to be sure, much to praise in the package, which is headed for a vote in the House this Friday. The bill boosts benefits for workers who are on sick leave or have lost their jobs. It offers additional support to hospitals and ensures free COVID-19 tests for Americans who have private health insurance — provided that they find a way to get the test. And it will give rebates of $1,200 for most U.S. adults with income below $75,000 (or double that for most married couples). But another 12 million Americans — including approximately 4 million seniors who are financially reliant on their grown-up children, and other disabled adults who depend for support on relatives — will receive nothing.
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