A bipartisan group of US lawmakers on Tuesday unveiled a $ 908 billion Covid-19 relief bill aimed at breaking the months-long deadlock between Democrats and Republicans over new emergency aid for small businesses, the unemployed , airlines and other industries.
The measure has not been enshrined in law. It was also not passed by the Trump administration, President-elect Joe Biden, or leaders of the Senate or House of Representatives, all of which would be needed for passage.
But with that comes the support of a group of conservatives and moderates who claim it will appeal to a wide range of Congress. Economists and senior government officials, including Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, have warned the U.S. economy is in danger unless Congress acts.
Lawmakers hope to complete their work for the year by mid-December, but they still have a massive government funding bill to approve or they risk agencies shutting down from December 12. If the bipartisan coronavirus aid bill gains momentum, it could either be tied to the spending bill or move forward on a separate track.
“It would be silly on steroids if Congress left for Christmas without making an interim package,” said Senator Mark Warner, a Democrat from Virginia.
Earlier this year, more than $ 3 billion in coronavirus aid was enacted, which included economic stimulus and money for medical supplies. But since then, negotiations to increase aid have stalled in Congress.
On Tuesday, Powell told Congress that the outlook for the US economy was “extraordinarily uncertain” as the increase in Covid-19 cases continued to wreak economic havoc in the country. The latest monthly jobs report, released on Friday, is expected to show that the pace of the labor market recovery continues to slow.
The plan was unveiled at a press conference on Capitol Hill, amid an increase in coronavirus cases, with a significant increase in deaths and hospital resources at a breaking point.
Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska called for swift bipartisan action as she rolled back the escalating business closures in her state “during a pretty dark and cold time of the year.” with many job losses and “food insecurity”.
The proposal would provide emergency aid until March 31, including $ 228 billion in paycheck protection program funds for hotels, restaurants and other small businesses. State and local governments would receive direct assistance, lawmakers said.
Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, a Republican, called for help from Congress, noting in an interview on CBS that his state had more than 5,000 coronavirus patients in hospitals and not enough money to distribute the long-awaited Covid vaccines which should be available from this winter.
U.S. airlines would receive $ 17 billion for four months of payroll assistance as part of $ 45 billion for the transportation sector which also includes airports, buses and the Amtrak passenger train, according to two people close to the plan.
Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, a Republican, said the bill contained $ 560 billion in “reused” funding from the Cares Act enacted in March, with the remaining $ 348 billion in new money.
The measure includes provisions that Republicans lobbied for, including liability guarantees for businesses and schools. But it’s a lot more expensive than the $ 500 billion Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is advocating.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her fellow Democrats would win a central demand with help from state and local governments, which are facing layoffs of frontline workers.
A compromise of $ 300 per week for four months in additional unemployment benefits is in the package, according to lawmakers. Democrats were looking for $ 600.
Separately, a group of Democratic senators on Tuesday introduced a bill that would extend until October 2021 the $ 600 per week in unemployment benefits for workers who have lost their jobs due to Covid-19.
While it’s significantly lower than the $ 2.2 billion Pelosi was looking for in his last White House offer ahead of the Nov. 3 election, the $ 908 billion is for a relatively short period, potentially opening the door to additional demands for money once the Biden administration is in place. .
Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin were due to discuss coronavirus aid and the must-see government funding bill later Tuesday.