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Time to do the people’s work

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell deserves some praise this week for being one of the country’s highest-ranking Republicans to acknowledge Democrat Joe Biden’s victory in the November presidential election. As much as it must have hurt him to do it, McConnell actually congratulated Biden on his victory Tuesday, according to a top story in the New York Times.

“Many of us hoped that the presidential election would yield a different result, but our system of government has processes to determine who will be sworn in on Jan. 20,” he was quoted as saying “The Electoral College has spoken.”

Even though some members of Congress, including Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, are still making noise about trying to stop ratification of the Electoral College vote in January, we hope this effort fizzles out before it picks up momentum. As we’ve said before, it’s time for this country to move on.

What does the mean, exactly? Well, for lawmakers like McConnell and Johnson, it means working to pass a much-needed and long-awaited relief bill for businesses and families still suffering from the devastating economic impacts of COVID-19. We were encouraged to read that McConnell and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, along with other congressional leaders, met on Tuesday to talk about getting a government spending and stimulus package that could perhaps be passed by the end of this week. However, it’s also disappointing to find out that this was the first time these leaders have met in-person to discuss such important issues since the election — six weeks ago.

Meanwhile, America is still hurting. Even though a coronavirus vaccine has been approved and is now being rolled out, many hospitals are struggling to handle the thousands of critically ill Americans in need of medical care. Though the COVID survival rate is blessedly high, the toll it’s taking is severe, both on families and on an economy that is begging for a return to normalcy.

For many sectors, simply waiting for a bounceback to occur is not really an option. According to the results of a recent survey by the American Restaurant Association, which included 6,000 restaurants, the owners of many cafes, coffee shops and other eateries don’t have much hope for the future. More than a third of Wisconsin restaurant owners, 37 percent, said they don’t expect to be in business six months from now if they don’t get additional relief from the federal government. Almost half (46 percent) say they are thinking about closing at least temporarily until the pandemic is “over” — whenever that may be.

Way back in March, when the statewide shutdown of “non-essential” businesses first took effect, this newspaper reached out to as many local restaurant owners we could think of to see how they were handling the unprecedented disruption to their business. Most of them said they were doing what they could to survive with takeout orders, but they knew it was going to be tough. Even though there is no longer a shutdown in effect, the shear volume of COVID cases in Wisconsin is keeping many people at home, and holding onto their wallets.

Americans, especially those who own businesses, generally don’t like the idea of accepting a “handout” from the government, but when it’s a matter of staying open or closing your doors, that attitude tends to soften. We as consumers should do what we can — continuing to patronize local businesses as much as possible and buying gift cards for post-pandemic usage — but at some point lawmakers in Washington, D.C. need to step in and provide more assistance.

Congress needs to act now on a second round of COVID relief. The election is over and so are all the excuses for inaction.

The Tribune-Phonograph editorial board consists of publisher Kris O’Leary and editor Kevin O’Brien