Opinion | This Deal Is Good Enough

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The $900 billion pandemic aid package that emerged Sunday from months of on-and-off negotiations between House Democrats and Senate Republicans is a necessary measure that will ease the suffering of millions of Americans. It will help unemployed workers to feed their families and to avoid eviction. It will help small businesses avoid bankruptcy. It will help to keep the trains and buses running in cities across the country.

Congress should have acted months ago, and the delay has caused a lot of unnecessary pain. Even now, Congress is not doing enough to meet the full measure of the need. But the relevant question is whether this agreement will help — and the clear answer is yes.

With vaccinations underway, there is reason to hope that the coronavirus pandemic will begin to loosen its grip next year and that economic growth will accelerate. This deal creates a bridge from now until then. It deploys the ample resources of the federal government to prevent economic damage that could not be easily reversed, like the loss of homes and businesses.

There is much to applaud in the details of the agreement. The legislation, which still must pass the House and Senate before proceeding to President Trump’s desk, would extend the duration of unemployment benefits by 11 weeks. That would provide critical relief for millions of Americans who faced the expiration of benefits at the end of the year and have no reasonable prospect of finding jobs in the immediate future.

Under the deal, the federal government also would send unemployed workers $300 a week on top of their standard state benefits check, a scaled-down version of the $600 weekly checks the government sent workers during the early months of the pandemic. Those supplemental payments, a new idea, helped keep millions of people out of poverty.

The government also would send a one-time payment of $600 to most Americans — among other things providing aid to those who don’t qualify for unemployment benefits.

The deal would extend a federal moratorium on evictions through the end of January and provide $25 billion to help tenants catch up on missed rent payments.

There is also more money to help small businesses, like restaurants, which are struggling to survive as a surge in Covid-19 cases has precipitated another round of restrictions.

The deal also includes some targeted funding for state and local governments, including money to fight the pandemic, to feed the hungry and to keep transit systems running.

The size of the deal approximates the 2009 stimulus act that Congress passed at the beginning of the Obama administration — and it sits on top of the much larger stimulus bill passed last spring. That highlights what is hopefully a lasting shift in fiscal policy. During the 2008 crisis, policymakers worried about the consequences of borrowing, and doubted the benefits of spending. The result was a slow recovery. This time around, the fearmongers have struggled to find an audience, and the extra aid is making a big difference.

Still, this deal is overdue. As the earlier round of federal aid began to lapse over the summer, a chorus of loud voices warned that the failure to act would cause needless pain for millions of American families and that the economy might slip back into recession. Those warnings were on the mark. Consumer spending is falling, and unemployment claims have rebounded.

In the spring, even as joblessness surged, federal aid prevented any significant increase in the share of Americans living in poverty. Since then, the poverty rate has increased from 9.3 percent in June to 11.7 percent in November — the largest increase in a single year since at least 1960, the earliest year with available data.

Without a deal, worse would lie ahead. About 12 million Americans are receiving federal unemployment benefits under pandemic programs that are scheduled to expire at the end of the year.

Both sides gave ground to reach a deal. Democrats, who initially proposed an aid package totaling more than $3 trillion, bowed to Republican insistence that the total bill could not exceed $1 trillion. Republicans fixated on that number as a symbol of the fiscal prudence they reliably espouse when, and only when, it suits their purposes.

Republicans, in turn, dropped their insistence on a provision unblushingly intended to shelter employers from the obligation to attend to the safety of their employees.

Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, reportedly told colleagues a deal was necessary to improve the prospects of the Republican candidates in the pair of special elections in Georgia that will determine which party controls the Senate.

If that was indeed Mr. McConnell’s reason, voters in Georgia would do well to remember that Republicans didn’t act until they feared the loss of their Senate majority.

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