Progress in coronavirus relief talks – but still ‘a lot of work to do’

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A federal unemployment benefit of $ 600 per week expired on Friday, as did a moratorium on evictions. The end of these two federal protections could hurt some of the millions of Americans who have lost their jobs since the coronavirus pandemic hit the country five months ago. More than 153,000 Americans have died from the disease and the US economy has shrunk by more than 9% due to business closures.

President Donald Trump and Senate Republicans are backing a $ 1 trillion package that would restore federal unemployment levels, but to much lower levels. The GOP plan would also spend tens of billions more to reopen schools, expand states’ coronavirus testing capabilities, help farmers and support global health programs. Republicans – led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) – are also demanding liability protection from lawsuits for schools and businesses as they begin to reopen.

Pelosi and Schumer, however, are backing a much more expensive $ 3 trillion proposal passed by the House that would extend the $ 600 weekly unemployment benefit until next year. And Democrats want more than $ 900 billion in federal aid for state and local governments, as well as much more financial support for schools and universities.

As talks bogged down this week, Meadows and Mnuchin made several offers for a short-term extension of unemployment compensation of $ 600 per week in combination with other provisions.

But Democrats rejected the White House-led effort, saying they wanted to reach agreement on a larger package, not a “piecemeal approach” to the problem.

“So today we have been productive in moving us forward,” Pelosi said. “But again, we need to get rid of this virus so that we can open our economy, open our schools safely, and do it in a way that doesn’t result in reduced benefits for American workers.”

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