Congress Finally Reaches Deal On COVID-19 Relief With Stimulus Checks, Jobless Benefits
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., From left, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Have negotiated a deal to provide financial relief to Americans during the pandemic. (Photo: Brendan Smialowski / Pool via REUTERS)
Top lawmakers eventually reached an agreement for more than $ 900 billion for COVID-19 relief, including another round of stimulus checks for most Americans and an additional $ 300 a week for people on unemployment benefits receive.
If everything goes according to plan, the deal would end a half-hour stalemate between the leaders of Congress and the administration of President Donald Trump about giving Americans financial relief on top of an omnibus spending bill of $ 1 $ 4 trillion that will serve as a vehicle for the coronavirus package.
It took Congress almost five months to renew the extra unemployment benefit after an additional $ 600 per week expired in late July. And the traffic jam only broke after a non-partisan group of moderate senators agreed on its own stimulus package in early December.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) And House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) - along with minority leaders Sen. Chuck Schumer (DN.Y.) and Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R -Calif.) - worked out the final deal using the bipartisan legislation as a framework late Sunday evening.
The deal came after negotiators stumbled across the Republicans' insistence on Friday that the Federal Reserve should not have loan programs similar to those created under the CARES Act. They ultimately compromised the language that would forbid an exact replacement for those programs that were backed with a whopping $ 454 billion but barely used.
The check for $ 600 per person is roughly half the size of the one sent this summer, according to two sources familiar with the conversations, but will still be welcome news to most Americans.
Trump tweeted in the middle of the night over the weekend that he thought Congress should increase the number of checks - something his personal aides reportedly advised against. Trump reportedly wanted direct payments of up to $ 2,000 per person but is okay with the final figure. The final deal would expire the checks for those earning more than $ 75,000.
Democrats made concessions on unemployment benefits to secure the checks. While the original gang of moderate senators proposed re-approving federal programs for gig workers and the long-term unemployed for four months, the new deal would continue federal programs for unemployed Americans for just eleven weeks, according to a source familiar with the talks to offset costs another round of direct payments.
The final agreement calls for laid-off workers to receive $ 300 a week in unemployment insurance on top of their state benefits for 11 weeks - but half of the $ 600 benefits congress passed last spring is still bigger than any increase that Program has recorded over the past few years.
Democrats also received an additional 11-week allowance for people who were unemployed for long enough to run out of both state and federal benefits, as well as language relaxation of repayment requirements for workers accidentally overpaid by a state employment agency.
But the Republicans won a gradual suspension of federal programs. Employees cannot submit a new federal application after March 14, but can receive benefits until April 5 if they have previously submitted an application. Gradual end to federal benefits would mean there would be less of a "cliff" on which millions of people would be cut off at the same time and pressured Congress to act.
People wait in a line that wraps around the block in Chelsea, Massachusetts for a pop-up pantry amid the April 17 pandemic. (Photo: Brian Snyder / Reuters)
Another key to the final bill was what wasn't in it, namely corporate liability protection or aid to state and local governments.
The liability shield was one of the more toxic proposals. McConnell had tried for years to ban personal injury lawsuits related to exposure to coronavirus. Ultimately, McConnell agreed to abandon his insistence on liability rules if the Democrats saved $ 160 billion in additional government and local aid - much-needed funds to help these governments cope with budget constraints caused by the pandemic-induced recession balance.
That decision allowed Democrats and Republicans to move forward on the bill, but it could also set up Democrats to receive another stimulus package once President-elect Joe Biden takes office. Given the layoffs of state governments, governors can go to their congressional delegations and press for funds that could provide bipartisan support for aid in another relief effort.
"An incentive that ignores cities and states is an incentive that ignores the pain of the working class, who more than ever depend on our services," New York Mayor Bill De Blasio's spokesman Bill Neidhardt told HuffPost in a recent Explanation week.
And for some Democrats in Congress, the package is not enough.
For one thing, there is now a lack of state and local funding. On the other hand, the stimulus checks are far fewer than the Democrats are striving for. And the extra unemployment benefit is half of what unemployed jobseekers received from April to August.
A number of members of the Progressive Caucus of Congress were very critical of the negotiations last week. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) Said she still wanted the bill to do more - maybe $ 1,200 stimulus checks or even $ 2,000 checks as the progressives have argued - and she said, she would vote with the CPC.
Last week, Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., Said the same thing, adding that people needed more than $ 600 in checks and that the period for the additional $ 300 of unemployment benefits had been cut by a month in recent negotiations was. (The bipartisan deal would have brought an additional 16 weeks of benefits, but the legislation that Pelosi and McConnell agreed on would only take 12 weeks.)
Khanna, who urged Pelosi to accept the $ 1.8 trillion deal the White House offered shortly before the election, reiterated that this legislation was worse than the previous offer and rejected the argument that Pelosi never had a real offer because McConnell was still insisting on his liability label.
If McConnell had refused to give up liability coverage even after Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin reached an agreement, Khanna said, "It would have clearly identified McConnell as a bloc ... and then it would have depended on how much pressure Trump was willing to do to put it on. "
Protesters are blocking the road to the home of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in Washington, DC on July 22nd calling for the expansion of coronavirus-related unemployment benefits. (Photo: Jonathan Ernst / Reuters)
Even Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Who partnered with Conservative Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) To advocate including stimulus checks in the final deal, said the compromise was insufficient.
Some other Democrats were annoyed at the deal's "arbitrariness" for certain programs to help the struggling Americans.
Senator Ron Wyden (Ore.), The top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, said in a statement Wednesday that "there is no reason whatsoever to pay for relief checks by cutting the income of the unemployed".
"Obviously, we wouldn't set an arbitrary deadline to lock down vaccine access while COVID raged. Why can Mitch McConnell sabotage the economic recovery by cutting support for working people and setting arbitrary expiration times?" Asked Wyden.
The Democrats have allocated $ 25 billion to set up a new emergency rental aid program that Americans can use to pay overdue rents and other housing bills. And Democrats got money to help schools, money to distribute vaccines, and money to help troubled industries, including transportation and US mail.
Republicans are also receiving more than $ 300 billion to help small businesses. $ 257 billion goes to the Paycheck Protection Program, which borrows money from companies to help prevent major job losses.
Still, the deal is likely to be too much for some Republicans. Some Conservatives told HuffPost - before the deal was closed - that they were very likely to vote no.
"My strong tendency is that I'll be a no," said Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) on Wednesday night.
The bill could easily pass both chambers, despite opposition from the far left and far right of both parties - as long as the heads of state and government can actually close the deal.
Legislators passed a short-term emergency funding bill on Friday to push them over the weekend and prevent a shutdown to continue negotiations. He will be passing another short-term spending bill on Sunday evening to vote on the final package on Monday. The aim was to adopt some kind of aid package before the end of the year. Federal programs for unemployed Americans will expire at the end of the month and risk stranding 12 million job seekers.
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