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Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi led her party in a push to fill the phase 3 coronavirus stimulus bill with liberal policy priorities, and many of them made it through in the final version of the bill, but Republicans fit their share of pork into the spending bill as well.
While the vast majority of the funds in the bill will go toward assisting small businesses and families endure the coronavirus pandemic’s economic fallout, there is also billions in miscellaneous spending.
Kennedy Center Funding:
Pelosi’s original bill called for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts to receive $35 million, and the organization ended up getting $25 million.
Nevertheless, the Washington, D.C. group laid off the entire National Symphony Orchestra on April 3. The organization sent musicians an email saying their April checks would be their last until the end of the coronavirus pandemic, according to the Washington Free Beacon.
“The Covid-19 Advisory Committee was broadsided today during our conversation with [Kennedy Center President] Deborah Rutter,” the email read. “Ms. Rutter abruptly informed us today that the last paycheck for all musicians and librarians will be April 3 and that we will not be paid again until the Center reopens.”
“Everyone should proceed as if their last paycheck will be April 3,” it continued. “We understand this will come [as a] shock to all of you, as it did to us.”
The bill also gave a combined $150 million in funding to the National Endowment of the Arts and National Endowment of the Humanities.
Critically, that $150 million comes in the form of grants with no expectation of being paid back. Meanwhile, much of the funding afforded to small businesses in the bill comes in the form of loans, which the companies will have to reimburse.
Believe it or not, the word “sunscreen” appears dozens times in the CARES Act, and it’s thanks to the Treatment of Sunscreen Innovation Act being placed into the bill.
“The word ‘sunscreen’ appears in an emergency coronavirus relief bill 49 times. It’s unclear what this bill has to do with helping workers and families impacted by this public health crisis — except to say that powerful members of Congress are skilled in never letting a crisis go to waste,” Rachel Bovard, senior director of policy at Conservative Partnership, told the Daily Caller.
The sunscreen law benefits large manufacturers in Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s home state of Kentucky, where he is up for reelection in November.
Postal Service Bailout:
The CARES Act also includes a $10 billion loan to the U.S. Postal Service thanks largely to Pelosi, and she’s not done yet.
While the phase 3 bill includes the $10 billion as a loan, Pelosi is currently engaged in negotiations for the phase 4 package, in which she plans push for a true “cash infusion” bailout of the postal service, according to Bovard.
The postal service is one of America’s most notorious institutions for endlessly leaking cash. The organization lost $3.9 billion in 2017 alone, a 44% increase over the previous fiscal year, according to Reason Magazine.
Cash For Congress:
The bill also appropriates $25 million in salaries and expenses for the U.S. House of Representatives.
When asked about this appropriation, the House Administration Committee says it will only be used to assist members in setting up telework programs and other coronavirus-related expenses, according to Bovard.
The bill does not explicitly require the funds go toward such programs, however, and there is no plan to hold Congress accountable for how the $25 million is actually spent.