Two separate pieces of legislation are moving forward in Congress, both designed to provide different degrees of coronavirus economic relief.
Roughly a dozen Senators have now unveiled a $748 billion bill that will include hundreds of billions in unemployment benefits, as well as funding for everything from transportation to education and vaccine distribution.
If passed, the legislation would likely mean at least sixteen weeks of unemployment compensation for those out of work due to the pandemic economy, with checks averaging $300 a week per individual.
A second bill, with a $160 billion price tag, will see funding going directly to state and local governments and may also include a short-term liability shield for employers.
For months, members of Congress have been unable to fashion a bill that would win passage in both the House and Senate, with disagreements centering on the size of the legislation.
As the two new proposals are being digested, there are reports that several more bills pertaining to various aspects of relief legislation may be introduced in the next several days.
House Speaker Pelosi has also remained in talks with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in the hope of coming up with a more comprehensive bill. But so far those talks have proven unproductive.
Negotiations have repeatedly hit a wall regarding the size of a new relief bill, with many Democrats pushing for a $3.4 trillion package, and Republicans suggesting a significantly smaller $500 billion approach.
There is also a move calling for the sending of direct checks, which is not mentioned in the two most recent pandemic relief bills.
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and Missouri Senator Josh Hawley are pushing for legislation that will make possible checks of up to $1,200 per individual, and $500 per child.
The Department of Labor estimates that around 12 million Americans will no longer be eligible for unemployment compensation by the week of Christmas if Congress fails to extend funding for the program.
“I think it would send a terrible message if we’re home celebrating Christmas and people’s unemployment has run out and businesses are being closed,” Utah Senator Mitt Romney remarked last week.
Romney is one of the movers behind the $748 billion unemployment relief bill.
The Washington Post, meanwhile, is reporting that Congressional leaders in both parties are determined to include the stimulus legislation with a larger bill that must be approved by Friday, designed to keep the government running.
By Garry Boulard
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