Delaware officials guardedly glad for stimulus agreement

DOVER — Delaware officials are cautiously optimistic about the stimulus package agreed to in Congress on Sunday.

The $900 billion legislation contains a temporary $300 per week supplemental jobless benefit and a $600 direct payment to most Americans, along with $284 billion for the continuation of the Paycheck Protection Program, aimed at helping businesses.

Any small business or nonprofit with no more than 300 employees that experienced major revenue loss in 2020 is eligible, even if they received money in the first round earlier this year. Additionally, it simplifies the forgiveness process and guarantees no borrower loses any tax deductions as a result of participating in the program.

There’s also more relief for schools, health care entities and renters facing eviction, as well as funding to assist local governments with COVID-19-related health expenses and to help individuals stuck with unexpectedly high medical bills.

The measure, a compromise between both parties, is not as thorough as Democrats had hoped. Republicans, who control the Senate, had resisted a robust package for months. The $600 payments are half what Congress approved in March, and the unemployment supplement also is for less money and less time than this spring’s legislation.

Democrats touted the bipartisan spirit that produced the deal while saying more relief will be needed in the near future. The GOP has focused more on reopening the economy, often painting COVID concerns as overblown.

“Congress has finally reached an agreement to provide desperately needed relief to people in Delaware and across the country,” said Chris Coons, a Democrat serving as Delaware’s junior senator, in a statement.

“I am grateful to my colleagues — both Republicans and Democrats — who worked together for weeks to deliver compromise legislation after too many months of inaction. We cannot wait any longer. Families and small businesses in Delaware need this help now.”

On MSNBC, Sen. Coons said he has heard “day and night from Delawareans anxious to know whether there’s going to be relief for those facing eviction, relief for those relying on the food bank, relief for those who are unemployed, support and help for small businesses,” although he added Congress “will need to come back and do another relief bill early next year.”

On Twitter, Democratic Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester said the legislation “can act as a bridge through the holidays,” expressing optimism another measure can be approved after Joe Biden takes office next month.

“I’m pleased that congressional leadership has agreed to a COVID-19 relief package, including direct payments, which I’ve advocated for, along with concrete wins for Delaware, such as funding for testing and vaccine distribution, relief for small businesses, and broadband,” she wrote.

Judy Diogo, president of the Central Delaware Chamber of Commerce, said the package was sorely needed.

“We are grateful that there is money in the stimulus agreement for our businesses,” she wrote in an email. “We need to remember what a struggle this pandemic has been for our businesses and we have to make sure we do everything we can to help them. Our businesses are the backbone of our communities. They need our support now more than ever!”

Spokespeople for Gov. John Carney and Sen. Thomas Carper did not respond to requests for comment Monday.

Helpful Coronavirus links

Delaware Division of Health Coronavirus Page
CDC: About the Coronavirus Disease 2019
CDC: What to do if You Are Sick
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
AP News Coronavirus Coverage
Reopening Delaware: Resources for Businesses
Delaware Phase 2 guidance

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