US Lawmakers Launch New $ 908 Billion Coronavirus Assistance Program | News from the United States and Canada


A bipartisan group of US lawmakers on Tuesday unveiled a $ 908 billion COVID-19 relief bill aimed at breaking the months-long standoff between Democrats and Republicans over new emergency aid for small businesses, to the unemployed, airlines and other industries during the pandemic.
The measure has not yet been enshrined in law. It has yet to be passed by the Republican Trump administration, Democratic President-elect Joe Biden, or leaders of the Senate or House of Representatives, all of which would be needed for passage.

But it comes with the backing of a group of conservatives and moderates who claim it will appeal to a large swath of Congress.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said Congress should include a new wave of coronavirus stimulus in a must-see $ 1.4 trillion spending bill aimed at avoiding a government shutdown.

McConnell and President-elect Joe Biden spoke separately of quickly passing a coronavirus aid bill and debating an additional bill early next year to deal with America’s worst health crisis in living memory.

But difficult discussions of the details have remained with little time to waste, as Congress rushes to pass a $ 1.4 trillion bill by Dec. 11 to maintain funding for government agencies. Without action, a range of government programs would be halted and many federal workers would be fired.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks at a campaign event in Florence, Kentucky, USA [File: Bryan Woolston/Reuters]

McConnell has said he would like to marry the fundraising bill with a coronavirus aid measure.

“We need a targeted relief bill,” McConnell told reporters after meeting with fellow Republican senators. For months, he has advocated a $ 500 billion approach that Democrats have rejected as insufficient.

McConnell also said he has consulted the White House and is handing out to Republican senators an outline of a bill that President Donald Trump would accept.

McConnell did not provide details.

If the bipartisan coronavirus aid bill gains traction in the coming days, 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 doing an interim package,” Democratic Senator Mark Warner said.

Earlier this year, more than $ 3 trillion in coronavirus aid was enacted, which included economic stimulus and money for medical supplies.

The unveiling of the plan at a press conference on Capitol Hill came as the number of coronavirus cases rose in the United States, coupled with a significant increase in deaths and many hospital resources at a breaking point.

Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski called for swift bipartisan action as she rolled back the shutdowns of businesses that had proliferated in her state of Alaska “during a fairly dark and cold time of year”, with many job losses and food insecurity.

Buyers are complying with mask regulations to help prevent the spread of coronavirus at Bridgton Books in Bridgton, Maine [Robert F. Bukaty/AP Photo]

The bipartisan proposal would provide emergency aid until March 31, including $ 228 billion in additional paycheck protection program funds for hotels, restaurants and other small businesses.

State and local governments would receive direct assistance under the bipartisan bill, lawmakers said.

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, a Republican, appealed to Congress for help, noting in an interview with the CBS This Morning television show that his condition has more than 5,000 coronavirus patients in hospitals and not enough money to distribute the long-awaited COVID-19 vaccines which should be available from this winter.

Significantly lower amount

U.S. airlines would receive $ 17 billion for four months of payroll assistance as part of $ 45 billion for the U.S. transportation sector which also includes airports, buses and the Amtrak passenger train, two people say familiar with the plan.

Overall, Senator Mitt Romney, a Republican, said it contains $ 560 billion in “redirected” funding for the CARES law enacted in March, with the remaining $ 348 billion in new money.

The measure includes provisions that Republicans have insisted on, including new liability protections for businesses and schools struggling with the coronavirus pandemic.

But it is much more expensive than the 500 billion dollars advocated by McConnell.

House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her fellow Democrats would win a central demand with help from state and local governments, which face layoffs of frontline workers due to lack of income.

A compromise of $ 300 a week for four more months in unemployment benefits would also be 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 significantly lower than the $ 2.2 trillion Pelosi was seeking in his last White House offer ahead of the Nov. 3 election, the $ 908 billion is for a relatively short period of time, potentially opening the door to additional demands for money once the Biden administration is in place. .

The Trump campaign is contesting the election results, even as hopes of a different outcome fade as the courts overturn legal challenges.


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