Congress — Make Yourselves Useful And Pay Us

by Nikkya Hargrove
Originally Published: 

Truth be told, my wife and I did not get the first round of stimulus checks. Why? Because of some asinine declaration that my wife’s social security card wasn’t valid enough to receive the check. After being on hold for what felt like an eternity with the Social Security Administration, after emailing our senator Chris Murphy (and hearing back from him, twice) — who reassured us we were eligible and should receive our check by Christmas — there was this apparent issue with my wife’s social security card which we found out in August made us ineligible.

What we have is a Congress (and a White House) who will find every excuse not to help the American people amid these unprecedented times. We are dealing with a global pandemic, a never-before-seen unemployment rate, a racial and social divide that makes me want to vomit, and a quarantine stupor that I am so over — the least Congress can do is their job. They need to approve another round of stimulus checks for the Americans who are struggling financially — all of us.

If we aren’t trying to keep our kids focused on their 500th Zoom call of the week or attending a Zoom meeting of our own while our five-year-old climbs all over us, perhaps we are battling something else: job loss, anxiety over using public transportation, or what will happen in January when president-elect Joe Biden takes office. Another round of stimulus checks can ease some of our fears, even if not all.

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In a recent joint statement by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), as reported in The Washington Post, the bipartisan talks are the brightest hope for a bipartisan solution. “The President’s proposal starts by cutting the unemployment insurance proposal being discussed by bipartisan Members of the House and Senate from $180 billion to $40 billion. That is unacceptable,” the statement says. What is also unacceptable is that 12 million people still have not received their checks from the first round of payments.

Let’s use my family as an example, shall we? We are a two-parent, married couple with three children who work full-time and have filed taxes the same way for over 10 years. I was born in the United States and my wife immigrated at the age of five. She became a naturalized citizen at 15 years old and has worked, paid taxes, and lived in America for the majority of her life. We are struggling — like all families — with the emotions of quarantine, the uncertainty of job security, the questions surrounding how long we can emotionally and mentally handle the many jobs we are doing: hospital chaplain, program director, mom, friend, kindergarten teacher, gym teacher, recess monitor, cafeteria worker, house cleaner, partner, neighbor, and so many more titles. What should not be added to our plate is whether or not we will be able to keep a roof over our kids’ heads or food on the table, a worry shared by the 10.7 million people who were unemployed as of this November, according to a recent jobs report.

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We have a Congress who, for the most part, cannot publicly acknowledge that president-elect Joe Biden won in the most legal of ways — by having the American people show up to the polls. Do we expect people who cannot acknowledge in a public statement that their colleague ran a dignified race, and accept the outcome, to heal our country? President-elect Biden has encouraged his disbelieving colleagues to act fast, to act now, and to pass a bill that will serve as a “down payment,” as he’s said, to help get Americans (and the economy) back on our feet after being knocked down in every way since March.

The inability of my own family to receive a stimulus check for reasons that are still really unclear to me doesn’t give me much hope that this Congress will get it done, but maybe. In August, President Trump extended unemployment benefits, dropping the weekly disbursement from $600 to $300 — a weak Band-Aid seeking to keep people from being kicked out of their homes. Maybe they will pass another stimulus check bill. Or maybe they’ll get caught up in the elementary antics that have stalled the first round of checks — like having President Trump’s name printed on them — or the $908 billion package that left out a second round of stimulus checks by moderate senators while tossing the hot potato to Senators Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who have both said they will vote against any package which does not include stimulus checks. I appreciate the fight they are putting up.

The fact is, a one-time $1,200 payment for single individuals, $2,400 for married couples, and $500 for each qualifying kid, won’t last long in any household. With the average rent paid for a two-bedroom apartment in 2019 just over $1,300 and the average grocery bill per month for a family of four just over $800 a month, this check will help a family with one month of living expenses — maybe.

But $1,200 or $2,400 is better than nothing. Can we please ensure that if you’ve paid taxes and worked and are considered an American, thanks to your American-given social security card and number, that you too deserve a check? And one more thing, Congress: Families need a legit check or direct deposit into their accounts, not debit cards with stipulations as many Americans received during the first round.

Our Congress is a group of adults who vowed to put their constituents first, and do their jobs in service to the American people. The way they’re ducking and dodging when we need them to show up the most — right now — is horse shit.

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