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  • People walk by a boarded up window at a closed store with a message in the Haight-Ashbury district, 'We Will Get By, We Will Survive' in San Francisco, California, USA, 18 March 2020.

    People walk by a boarded up window at a closed store with a message in the Haight-Ashbury district, 'We Will Get By, We Will Survive' in San Francisco, California, USA, 18 March 2020. | Photo: EFE

Published 26 March 2020
Opinion

U.S. progressives are warning about a little-noticed provision in the massive stimulus bill that would allow employers to stop paying into Social Security.

The United States Senate unanimously backed Wednesday a US$2 trillion bill aimed at helping unemployed workers and industries hurt by the coronavirus epidemic, as well as providing billions of dollars to buy urgently needed medical equipment.

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“Our nation obviously is going through a kind of crisis that is totally unprecedented in living memory,” Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said shortly before the vote on passage.

After bitter negotiations, the deeply divided Upper House came together and passed the bill by a 96-0 vote, which sent the massive stimulus package to the House of Representatives for a vote on Friday.

House Speaker Democrat Nancy Pelosi said she hoped the bill would pass quickly, and that Congress would pass further legislation if necessary to ease the crisis going forward.

While U.S. President Donald Trump assured reporters on Wednesday he would “sign it immediately.” 

The stimulus package, which is biggest ever passed by Congress, includes a US$500 billion fund to help hard-hit industries and a comparable amount for direct payments of up to US$3,000 apiece to millions of U.S. families.

The legislation will also provide US$350 billion for small-business loans, US$250 billion for expanded unemployment aid and at least US$100 billion for hospitals and related health systems.

However, U.S. progressives are warning about a little-noticed provision in the massive stimulus bill that would allow employers to stop paying into Social Security for at least the rest of the year, potentially threatening the program's long-term financial health as Common Dreams reported.

Section 2302 of the nearly 900-page legislation would let companies defer until next year their payment of the employer payroll tax, one of the primary funding mechanisms for Social Security. The bill would require that companies pay 50 percent of their owed 2020 payroll taxes by Dec. 31, 2021.

"The Democrats are walking right into the trap," Deputy Director of Social Security Works Michael Phelan warned ahead of the Senate vote.

Others such as New York Governor Andrew Cuomo also criticized the bill, saying the US$3.8 billion allocated to his state would not cover tax revenue it will lose from reduced economic activity. The state has become the epicenter of the pandemic within the U.S.

On Thursday, the U.S. topped China in the number of cases, totaling over 81,800.

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