December 4, 2020

Senate Republicans unveil slimmed-down stimulus plan that leaves out direct payments

  • Senate Republicans rolled out a new slimmed-down stimulus plan on Tuesday.
  • It includes a $300 federal unemployment benefit through December, $257 billion in small business aid, and no additional assistance for cash-strapped states.
  • It leaves out a second round of $1,200 stimulus checks, which helped people make ends meet at the peak of the lockdown in April and May.
  • Democrats are likely to block the bill, which they attacked as “emaciated.”
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Senate Republicans unveiled a slimmed-down stimulus plan on Tuesday to implement a $300 federal supplement to state unemployment benefits. But it leaves out a second round of $1,200 direct payments, which helped people make ends meet at the height of the lockdown earlier this year.

Democrats are likely to block the bill, which doesn’t include any extra federal aid for states. It carries a $500 billion price tag. That’s roughly half as much as the initial $1 trillion plan that the GOP rolled out in late July.

Given its slim odds of passage, the legislation largely appears to be messaging intended to convey the GOP’s biggest priorities for the next coronavirus relief package. 

The bill would put in place a $300 federal unemployment payout through December 27, and enacts liability protections for businesses through the “Safe to Work Act.” That measure raises the bar for hospitals, schools, colleges and universities, and small and large businesses to face coronavirus-related lawsuits.

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It didn’t include a second round of direct payments, which had drawn support from some Republicans — including President Donald Trump — and Democrats. Experts say the money shored up the finances of millions of jobless people as the pandemic shut down the US back in March.

The plan also extends the deadline to September 2021 for states to use $150 billion in federal assistance granted under the Cares Act in March without increasing flexibility or attaching new funds. Many states already allocated their money to prop up their public health response.

Democrats say the GOP coronavirus relief plan is “headed nowhere”

Republicans and Democrats are still far apart on measures to include in another round of pandemic aid. Democrats are seeking nearly $1 trillion in aid to cash-strapped states alone, a figure that Republicans oppose as too costly and unnecessary.

Both sides agree the federal government should supplement state unemployment benefits, but they’re divided on the amount to approve. Democrats want to restore the $600 weekly aid that was in place from March to late July, but the GOP plan would revive it at $300-per-week — only half as much.

President Donald Trump signed an executive order last month to provide $300 unemployment benefits through the end of the year. Most states are moving slowly to implement it.

Top congressional Democrats assailed the plan on Tuesday even before it was formally unveiled. In a statement, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, “Senate Republicans appear dead-set on another bill which doesn’t come close to addressing the problems and is headed nowhere.”

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“This emaciated bill is only intended to help vulnerable Republican Senators by giving them a ‘check the box’ vote to maintain the appearance that they’re not held hostage by their extreme right-wing that doesn’t want to spend a nickel to help people,” they said in the statement.

Negotiations between the White House and Democrats fell apart last month amid fierce disagreements on the amount of federal spending needed to keep the economy afloat. Democrats are pushing for at least $2.2 trillion in further spending,

The latest jobs report on Friday showed the US regained 1.4 million jobs in August, indicating the economy was slowly recovering its footing after a wave of massive job losses stemming from the pandemic earlier this year.

But nearly 29 million Americans are still on unemployment benefits, and experts warn of a recovery that leaves many low-income people behind because they lost jobs and income at higher rates compared to wealthier people.

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