It is Easter. There is probably not a more appropriate day to look to the hope of the future and a post-COVID-19 world. Even in the midst of yesterday’s more than 2,000 estimated coronavirus-related deaths—the highest U.S. daily toll to date—it is hard to look past the symbolism and sense of hope, renewal, and rebirth that the day holds for many. It is a day that captures a story of immense and meaningful suffering—and a transformation from darkness to light. That seems like a message well attuned to the times, wouldn’t you say?
For Christians, Easter celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ following his crucifixion on the cross, an event signifying hope and new beginnings. It marks a turning point, the date of the empty tomb.
The theme should resonate. And there are some interesting parallels today. The projected peak in coronavirus-related hospitalizations was yesterday. That marks today as the allegorical first rays of light and the anticipated beginning of a new, downward trend. And as we move toward what appears to be Phase 4 of the legislative response to the coronavirus, there is reason to maintain hope for an economic recovery as well. As I related in my piece yesterday, at heart, there is nothing fundamentally wrong with our economy and its infrastructure. We are under attack from an exogenous foe, not rotting from within. And the life of this attack will be finite.
The IRS began sending out the first wave of stimulus checks yesterday, meaning that many Americans will receive a much-needed bump to their bank account this week. The Service has prioritized those Americans most in need to receive the first batch of payments. The IRS has also provided a tool for non-filers to enter the necessary information to receive a payment, and will be opening its “Get My Payment” tool in the days ahead, allowing taxpayers to update their direct deposit information on file.
As we speak, emergency loans made possible through the CARES Act are in the process of being disbursed to small businesses across the country. The CARES Act appropriated some $349 billion to its new Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”) loan initiative geared toward small businesses. And the Treasury Secretary has already begun efforts to seek an additional quarter of a trillion dollars for the program, an action that would require congressional appropriation.
Just days ago, the Federal Reserve announced that it would be providing up to $600 billion in additional funds to foster a new loan program designed to buoy cash-strapped businesses during the economic fallout. The Main Street Lending Program, as it has been dubbed, is intended to support small- and mid-sized businesses through four-year loans with low interest rates and repayment deferrals. Companies that have taken advantage of the PPP loan initiative may still be eligible for Main Street Loans. There will be more to come on this new program in the days ahead.
And the biggest post-CARES Act relief may be just around the corner. Indeed, while the ink was still drying on the $2 trillion CARES Act (Phase 3 of the legislative response), congressional leaders had already begun to discuss Phase 4. As Washington eyes a fourth legislative aid package, reports have indicated that it could, itself, top out at over $1 trillion. Both sides of the isle have shown a proclivity to invest in long-term infrastructure spending, a very real potential focus for any Phase 4 legislation. Realistically, though, such a bill may be weeks away at the earliest, if it comes to fruition. But if it does, it could include relief on a host of topics, including health care, further payroll tax relief, expanded family and medical leave, additional direct cash payments to Americans, and an expansion of refundable tax credits.
These continued efforts show promise and reason for hope. Though we must, of course, temper that themed-to-the-day optimism with some words of wisdom: We must take care to ensure that our cure does not ultimately prove worse than the disease. We risk this most when we overreact or engage in knee-jerk policymaking—even with good intentions.
But getting back on message, today is a day for renewed hope and reflection on the coronavirus response to date. And at a high level, what has perhaps been most remarkable about the legislative response so far has been its relatively bipartisan nature. It has been a refreshing shift in tone. In an era marked by polarized politics and sharp ideological divides, it is encouraging to see politicians on both sides recognize common ground. And as we settle into this Easter Sunday, we should appropriately reflect on that appeal to what President Lincoln so eloquently called “the better angels of our nature.” Every challenge is an opportunity, and we should not be content to let that directive fade away in the aftermath of crisis, which will be here soon.