Walmsley: COVID-19 Relief May Happen After Election Day

It does not appear that Congress will take up a new coronavirus relief package before the November 3rd election, but a post-election deal with billions for agriculture and other sectors now appears much more likely. The Senate will vote this week on some $500 billion in relief, including more for Paycheck Protection for small businesses, unemployment, schools, and virus testing and tracing. But Democrats are expected to block the new effort as they did an earlier $300 billion bill, as long as House leaders and the White House struggle to come to some kind of agreement.

“I think the chances in a lame-duck are much, much greater than, obviously, before the election, but there could also be a scenario, depending on the outcome of the election, where they might wait ‘til a new Congress, where, it might not see a new package ‘til January or February,” said American Farm Bureau’s Andrew Walmsley. 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she’s opposed to the White House’s plan, even as lawmakers approached a House-passed $2.2 trillion package, arguing it wasn’t enough. Walmsley said while many in the Ag industry would like to see some stimulus now, the industry can wait, a for while.

“Fortunately, Ag’s in maybe a little better spot than some other industries, because of the CARES Act,” added Walmsley. “We had the second round of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, that farmers can sign up for, right now.  I think there’s still a long-term need in Ag, if we’re going to need another boost in there…particularly, as we get into the winter…you’re going to continue to see shifts in food trends, as what the future holds for all Americans, especially as we’re seeing some upticks in cases across the country.” 

Still in question is whether a final bill will include $20 billion in aid the Senate GOP set aside for agriculture in a recently blocked stimulus bill, plus protections against COVID lawsuits for meatpackers, schools, and health care providers that Republicans want, but Democrats oppose.

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