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WASHINGTON — House Democrats unveiled a $2.2 trillion COVID-19 relief bill in a longshot push to break the impasse on relief negotiations before the election, though the bill is likely to face opposition in the Republican-controlled Senate if it passes the House.
Many of the benefits previously approved by Congress ran out earlier this year, leaving millions of Americans waiting for urgently-needed aid. The $600 federal benefit to unemployment benefits ran out in July, a loan forgiveness program for small businesses expired, and airlines warned of mass layoffs as support for the industry expired.
The bill, an updated version of the legislation passed earlier by House Democrats, provides another round of $1,200 stimulus checks, reauthorizes the small business lending program, brings back the $600 federal boost to the unemployment benefit through January, and provides assistance for the airline industry.
The bill also includes:
- $225 billion in education funding, with $182 billion for K-12 schools and about $39 billion for postsecondary education
- $120 billion in grants for restaurants
- $436 billion in assistance for state, local, and tribal governments
- $75 billion for COVID-19 testing, tracing, and isolation measures
- $15 billion in funding for the United States Postal Service
- Increased food assistance benefits
“Democrats are making good on our promise to compromise with this updated bill, which is necessary to address the immediate health and economic crisis facing America’s working families right now,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wrote in a letter to Democrats as the bill was unveiled.
Moderate Democrats, many of whom face tough re-election contests, have pushed congressional Democratic leaders for weeks to act on a pared-down COVID-19 relief bill before they leave for their scheduled recess ahead of the election.
The House could act on the bill as soon as this week. Although the Senate is unlikely to act on the legislation, it represents a negotiating point over $1 trillion lower than Democrats’ previous proposal.
House Democrats passed a $3.4 trillion relief plan in May, but Senate Republicans declined to take action on the legislation. Since then, Pelosi and Democrats said they would reduce the price of their package by $1 trillion, though Republicans declined the offer. Senate Democrats blocked Senate Republicans’ smaller, $300 billion package in early September, leaving both sides at an impasse in negotiations.
Democrats and Republicans have been unable to agree on a number of issues, including the amount of the unemployment benefit, which Republicans say disincentivizes work if it is too generous. Democrats offered $600 in their proposals, whereas Republicans have offered $200 and $300 in other proposals.
Democrats have also advocated for funding for state and local governments, proposing nearly $1 trillion in previous proposals, whereas Republicans argue the money would bail out mismanaged governments and add to the federal deficit.
Pelosi said Monday on MSNBC she thought congressional Democrats and the White House “can find our common ground,” though Democrats still wanted White House negotiators to accept a higher price tag on the bill. Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, one of the lead White House negotiators, have resumed negotiations about stimulus, but they have not yet reached a deal.
Pelosi and Mnuchin spoke together by phone Monday evening after Democrats unveiled their new bill, according to Pelosi deputy chief of staff Drew Hammill, and agreed to speak again Tuesday morning as negotiations continued.
Speaker Pelosi and Secretary Mnuchin spoke at 6:30 p.m. tonight via phone after House Democrats introduced an updated version of the Heroes Act. The two agreed to speak again tomorrow morning.
— Drew Hammill (@Drew_Hammill) September 28, 2020
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