Republicans have offered to spend an additional $ 1 billion (£ 776 billion) to deal with the economic damage caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
The plan includes $ 100 billion for schools and stimulus payments of up to $ 1,200 to most Americans.
According to the plan, the payment would replace a $ 600 increase in unemployment benefits during the pandemic.
The proposal sets the stage for negotiations with Democrats who called it “wholly inadequate.”
The United States has already spent more than $ 2.4 billion on virus relief measures, sending billions of dollars in aid to businesses and individual households. But economists have warned since the spring that more is needed.
Senator Mitch McConnell said Republicans wanted to see how existing programs were working, but had now produced a “tailored and targeted project” to deal with the economic fallout from the pandemic.
The proposal would reduce the weekly unemployment benefit supplement from $ 600 to $ 200 until states can put in place a more targeted system that replaces 70% of a person’s previous salary.
- Millions of Americans “hanging on a thread”
- US sent $ 1.4 billion in pandemic aid to the dead
This reduction reflects fears that current benefits will discourage workers from returning to work, as around two-thirds of beneficiaries derive more from unemployment than from work.
Mr McConnell said Republicans “want to continue” the unemployment supplement, which expires this week. “But we have to do it in a way that doesn’t slow down the reopening. ”
In addition to money for direct payments to families and to help schools, Republicans have said they want to put in place legislation to protect businesses from workers’ health claims against coronaviruses.
What else do Democrats want?
Senator Chuck Schumer, who leads Democrats in the Senate, said the proposal was “too little, too late.”
The United States has lost around 15 million jobs since February and the recovery remains uncertain as cases of the virus increase and some places reimpose restrictions.
Nearly one in five American workers receives unemployment benefits and more than half of adults live in households that have seen their incomes drop, according to a US census survey.
“This is a serious and serious crisis,” Mr. Schumer said. ” We are run out of time. ”
He said the Republican plan amounted to a “30% pay cut” at a time when most workers have no work to return to and the transition to a new system will be nearly “impossible” for states. to execute. He highlighted the problems that have plagued the program so far.
“It will delay benefits for weeks, if not months, as we slide into a deeper recession,” he said.
Democrats, who have presented their own $ 3 billion plan, want funding for local governments, which face budget shortfalls due to declining economic activity. Many oppose the reduction in unemployment benefits, which they want to see extended until the end of the year.
They also rejected the proposal to protect companies from liability.
“What we will not support is what they say to essential workers: ‘You have to go to work because you are essential, we do not impose any responsibility on your employer to make this workplace safe and if you get sick, you have no recourse. because we gave your employer protection, ”Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, the top Democrat in the House of Representatives, said in a recent television interview.
What is happening now?
Some Republicans had offered to speed up certain pieces of the legislation – an idea rejected by Democrats, who see the strategy as an effort to avoid including their priorities.
Mr McConnell said on Friday he expected negotiations to take “a few weeks”. The senator will also have to persuade members of his own party, who are worried about the rising level of public debt and oppose further spending.
“The answer to these challenges will not be simply to take money out of Washington. The answer to these challenges will be to get people back to work, ”said Republican Senator Ted Cruz.