White House ends extension of unemployment benefit hike

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The Trump administration remains firmly opposed to renewing improved unemployment benefits in the upcoming fiscal stimulus bill, as its senior officials have spoken to Republican allies on the details of a new coronavirus relief plan.

President Donald Trump and US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin met with Republican Congressional leaders Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy at the White House on Monday to discuss an upcoming plan for more budget support, which is expected to be unveiled as early as this week by Senate Republicans. .

Speaking in the Oval Office, Mr Mnuchin said the White House was in favor of $ 1 billion in additional aid. However, he said the administration did not want improved unemployment benefits to continue at their current level of $ 600 per week, which Democrats deem necessary for many families amid the crisis.

The House of Representatives passed Democrat-sponsored law that would provide an additional $ 3 billion in aid, but the Republican-controlled Senate refused to consider it.

“We’re going to make sure we don’t pay people more money to stay home than to go to work,” Mnuchin told reporters. “We want to make sure that people who can go to work safely can do so. We will have tax credits that will encourage businesses to get people back to work. “

Chuck Schumer, the Senate’s top Democrat, accused Republicans of dragging their feet and suggested their proposal would be insufficient to deal with the economic downturn.

“The country is crying for help,” Schumer said. “The Republican bill will not even come close to meeting the time of this great crisis. ”

Mr McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, was depressed by the success of the United States in containing the virus, saying that “the fight against the virus itself in the health sector is clearly unfinished. ”And“ we are far from being out of the woods ”. He added, however, that “an indefinite total lockdown” could not be the solution.

The new stimulus package should be a happy medium between “another multi-billion dollar bridge loan to offset a stopping economy” and “an ordinary stimulus for a nation ready to return to normal,” he said. he declares.

The Kentucky Republican has said he wants to see more action to support the “health system” – which could cause a rift with the White House, which is skeptical of additional funding for coronavirus testing.

Mr McConnell also said he wanted “policy measures to help laid-off American workers get rehired” and “American families to get their children back to school in the fall.”

One of the sticking points is the issue of improved unemployment benefits, which have put the extra $ 600 a week in the pockets of unemployed Americans, on top of their state benefits, since the $ 2 billion law. Cares Act was passed in March.

Democrats have said they would like these improved unemployment benefits to continue, arguing they have helped Americans pay off debts and put food on the table as the unemployment rate remains in double digits.

Republicans countered that improved unemployment benefits have discouraged some Americans from returning to work, noting that in some cases, beneficiaries are earning more from unemployment than they would at work.

Mr McCarthy, the leading Republican in the House of Representatives, echoed Mr Mnuchin’s concerns.

“We don’t think we need to spend federal money” to create “a drag on work,” he said.

Mr McConnell said Republicans also plan to focus on the issue of the accountability of schools and businesses arising from the reopening. “We don’t need an epidemic of legal action,” he said Monday.

Mr. Trump has repeatedly raised the issue of cutting payroll taxes, an idea that has not gained popularity in Congress but will likely become a focal point of debate given Mr. Trump’s attention.

Mr Trump said on Monday that a payroll tax cut would be “a huge savings and an incentive for companies to rehire their workers and keep their workers.”

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