BISMARCK, ND — A COVID-19 relief bill passed the House and Senate last night after months of urging by Democratic lawmakers, who previously passed two bills that Sen. John Hoeven and Sen. Kevin Cramer refused to consider in the Senate. The latest bill includes a $600 relief payment for individuals as well as food aid and rent assistance at the behest of Democratic lawmakers who advocated for higher individual payments and support. It also included a three-martini lunch tax deduction after insistence by Republicans. A recent study shows the pandemic is exacerbating food and housing insecurity in North Dakota as working families struggle to pay for basic needs.
Funding for state and local governments, championed by House Democrats, did not make the final bill because Republicans refused to support it even as North Dakota ran out of money to help healthcare providers and other frontline workers who were promised help paying for COVID-19 medical bills. The Senate has declined to pass any meaningful COVID-19 relief legislation after the initial CARES Act passed in March. The last-minute vote came after the Senate sat on two bills passed by the Democratic-controlled House: one at $3.4 trillion in June and the other at $2.2 trillion October.
The Democratic-NPL Party Chairwoman Kylie Oversen said:
“While working families worry about feeding their kids and making rent payments, Sen. Cramer and Sen. Hoeven held out for the three-martini lunch so New York CEOs can write off happy hour. While frontline healthcare workers were denied relief for COVID-19 medical bills, Sen. Cramer and Sen. Hoeven refused to act. Even if it’s last minute, we’re thankful to see a deal because North Dakotans who are struggling to feed their families, make rent, and keep their businesses open this winter needed compromise in Washington months ago. Working families, who remain amongst the hardest hit while still getting the least relief, need to see more proactive leadership in Congress moving forward.”