Control of the U.S. Senate hangs in the balance after the Nov. 4 election, with the outcome all coming down to two special runoff elections in Georgia.
Republicans already have 50 seats secured, with wins in Alaska and North Carolina. Democrats have 48 seats, with a viable path to two more if their Senate candidates in Georgia, Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, can prevail over Republican incumbents Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue. With a 50-50 split, Democrats would gain the advantage with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris in the position to cast tie-breaking votes.
These high stakes are coming to head in a state that President-elect Joe Biden flipped for Democrats for the first time in 28 years but by a very narrow margin. That means both parties are likely willing to spend. A small chorus of political analysts has estimated that Democrats and Republicans could shell out a combined $1 billion to get the votes out for their candidates ahead of the Jan. 5 runoff — a sum that has raised some eyebrows.
As the political machines ramp up in the Peach State with both President Donald Trump and Biden prepared to stump there and both parties hoping their money will be well spent, GOBankingRates took a look at a few other problems that could be solved with a cool billion dollars.
Small-business relief funds totaling $1.1 billion across five southern U.S. states helped nearly 50,000 small businesses during the pandemic, according to the Hope Policy Institute. In a recent brief, researchers pointed out that the federal Paycheck Protection Program aid package left many small and minority-owned businesses behind, while “state-level small business relief programs are well-positioned to fill the gaps left by PPP.”
With these five states (Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana and Tennessee) as a model, the Hope Policy Institute advocates for “a more equitable recovery from COVID-19” with focused assistance on underserved communities.
Shelter 1 Million Families
It has been a devastating hurricane season in 2020. Hurricane Iota slammed Central America as a Category 5 storm in mid-November, while coastal communities from Texas to New England have been left battered by a string of record-breaking storms. This all comes after a wildfire season that set dismal records of its own, with 13 million acres burned in the U.S.
According to a spokesperson for the American Red Cross, $1 billion can provide food and shelter for 1 million families of four for five days.
Early Childhood Development
In a report on “Billion Dollar Bets” that could improve economic opportunity for Americans, The Bridgespan Group, a nonprofit consulting organization, proposed a $1 billion project to create technology tools and support parents in low-income communities. Their model predicted that by scaling existing tools and spurring further innovation, such a program could improve outcomes for 10 million low-income children under the age of 5 over the course of five years.
Earlier this year, a group of plastic industry and trade groups asked Congress for $1 billion to “reverse the current trend of landfilling recyclable materials, which has only been exacerbated by this pandemic.”
In a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the group, which included the Plastics Industry Association, the Solid Waste Association of North America and the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, proposed that a $1 billion investment in recycling infrastructure could create a “competitive grant program with proper oversight from the Environmental Protection Agency and go a long way towards creating good domestic jobs while positively impacting our environment.”
The request drew swift backlash from critics, who said that solutions to the recycling problem need to start much sooner in the product life cycle, well before it goes out to the curb.
Protect Lions and Their Habitats
Conserving lions and other wildlife within their protected habitat areas in Africa needs at least $1.2 billion annually to be effective, according to a research paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The 2018 paper cited funding inadequacies that were hampering conservation programs in Africa’s savannahs, weakening management and contributing to further declines in animal populations. “If managed optimally, Africa’s PAs [protected areas] could theoretically support three to four times more wild lions than the current continental total, which would secure the ecosystems that lions encompass and allow for conservation gains for many other species,” the report said.
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