GOP unveils COVID-19 relief bill
Politics | Plan promotes child well-being, jobs, and healthcare
by Harvest Prude
Posted 7/27/20, 07:28 pm
WASHINGTON—Senate Republicans released their proposal for the latest phase of federal coronavirus relief legislation on Monday as jobless Americans began receiving the final week of enhanced unemployment benefits.
The roughly $1 trillion bill, dubbed the HEALS (health, economic assistance, liability protection, and schools) Act, focuses on children, jobs, and healthcare. It includes another round of direct payments to Americans, money for schools and COVID-19 testing and tracing, and liability protections for businesses. It reduces the enhanced unemployment benefits from $600 to $200 a week and designates more money to the Paycheck Protection Program for small businesses.
The White House and Senate Republicans initially planned to unveil their package last week, but intense negotiations stalled the process. The bill likely will not pass but will serve as a starting point for bipartisan talks.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said he hopes Democrats will come to the negotiating table with a “real response, not partisan cheap shots.”
Not everyone in the GOP caucus is happy about the price tag of the bill. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas said on CBS News’ Face the Nation on Sunday he had “serious concerns, certainly at the cost, as our deficits and debt are spiraling out of control.”
Completing another round of coronavirus relief is going to be a much heavier lift than bills passed earlier in the pandemic. In May, House Democrats passed the HEROES Act, a roughly $3.5 trillion stimulus package. Their bill would extend unemployment benefits, bolster funding for healthcare, and give nearly $1 trillion in aid to state and local governments, among other priorities. Democrats now say the country needs even more than that as the number of coronavirus cases has surged in some parts of the country.
In remarks about the bill on the Senate floor, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore, called the Republican plan to reduce unemployment insurance a “punch in the gut” to working-class Americans.
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