Finish line near on stimulus that includes direct payments as FDA approved second vaccine
Updated: Dec 22, 2020
President Trump signed a two-day government funding bill late Friday night to stave off a shutdown as Congress looks to pass an additional COVID-19 relief deal and fund the government long-term by the new Sunday deadline. The House passed the measure 320-60 while the Senate passed the two-day extension by a voice vote.
While there was optimism that Congress could pass both packages over the weekend, the extra time will give legislators time to continue to work through new obstacles surrounding the relief deal. Republican Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey is pushing to curtail the Federal Reserve’s emergency lending authority, which would in effect take power away from its ability to create future aid programs without direct congressional action. Politico reported that Democrats balked at the potential hamstringing of any of the tools incoming President Joe Biden’s administration may need to continue to support a teetering economy.
Familiar fault-lines are being exposed during the negotiations as some conservatives worry about the cost of the measure and Democrats ability to siphon money off of other programs for state and local governments, to which Republicans have objected. Meanwhile, Senators Bernie Sanders and Josh Hawley are pushing for more than the expected $600 direct payments, which would be half of the $1200 payments Congress approved per person and child in the Spring. Frustration are also boiling over due to rising unemployment applications and the looming deadlines for key unemployment programs and federal eviction protection. “This is ridiculous,” said Rep. Jahana Hayes (D-Conn.) to Politico. “We should have a deal — we should’ve had a deal a long time ago. It’s unconscionable that we’re even here the weekend before Christmas.”
The sprint to the finish in Washington was met with some good news as Moderna’s vaccine was approved by the FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee with a 20-0 vote on Thursday, exactly one week after Pfizer’s vaccine was approved. It was then quickly given emergency use authorization by the FDA Friday. Moderna hopes to distribute nearly 6 million doses next week, and unlike Pfizer’s vaccine, does not require ultra-cold storage which will allow more facilities to dispense it in a shorter time period. Pfizer’s vaccines began to be administered nationwide and at Alabama hospitals earlier this week, with BamaTracker.com reporting around 5,000 having been given in the State. Hospitals, front-line workers, and nursing homes will continue to be the recipients of the first batches of vaccines, as former Governor Robert Bentley, a 77 year old dermatologist, was one notable Alabamian who received his first dose of Pfizer’s vaccine.
Over 4,200 Alabamians have died from COVID-19 complications, with Alabama reporting new records almost daily with around 3,000 new cases and 25 new deaths each day. Governor Ivey has thus far refused to close the State or enforce a quarantine as was the case for most of April. Alabama’s unemployment rate in November was one of the lowest in the country at 4.4 percent, but that number has likely risen in December as businesses, especially the leisure and hospitality sector, begin to feel the effects of more cases across the State.