More payments, extended benefits: Inside the GOP's COVID stimulus proposal
NEW YORK - Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is expected to release a $1 trillion coronavirus relief proposal on Monday after days of disagreements between the White House and GOP lawmakers, kickstarting negotiations with Democrats over the next round of aid for American workers and businesses.
The framework is expected to extend — but reduce substantially — just-expired expanded unemployment benefits, send a fresh round of $1,200 stimulus checks to American adults earning less than $75,000 in August and funnel tens of billions of dollars in aid to schools and universities.
McConnell's anticipated release of the proposal comes after top Trump administration officials, Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, paid two visits to the Capitol to work on bill text with staff.
FRESH ROUND OF STIMULUS CHECKS PROMISED IN AUGUST
The appearances at the Capitol by Mnuchin and Meadows were part of an effort to convey to skeptical Republicans the legislation was supported by Trump — not just McConnell.
“Half of the Republicans are going to vote no,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said on Fox News over the weekend. “That’s just a fact.”
REPUBLICAN SENATORS PUSH FOR CHECKS FOR 2M EXCLUDED FIRST TIME
House Democrats passed a $3 trillion relief bill in May, giving lawmakers a short time to bridge the partisan gulf between the different aid packages before the House starts its scheduled recess on Aug. 3 (the Senate is expected to follow one week later). McConnell said Friday he expects Congress to pass something by "the end of the next few weeks."
In the meantime, a slew of provisions put in place earlier this year for workers and businesses hurt by the virus-induced crisis are set to expire — even as layoffs from the most severe and abrupt economic downturn since the Great Depression persist.
Congress has already approved three massive stimulus packages totaling nearly $3 trillion to offset the economic pain triggered by the outbreak of the virus and subsequent lockdown.
That includes the $2.2 trillion CARES Act signed into law at the end of March, which sent one-time payments of up to $1,200 to Americans; established the Paycheck Protection Program and expanded unemployment benefits by $600 per week through the end of July.
But those benefits are lapsing soon, raising fears of a "fiscal cliff" that will hurt both individual households and the economy's gradual recovery.
The extra $600 a week in unemployment benefits ran out over the weekend (although officially it does not expire until July 31) and the typical check, which varies by state, will return to below $400 per week. It will affect about 25 million Americans and drain roughly $15 billion per week from the economy, according to one estimate from the Century Foundation.
A point of contention — Republicans have derided the $600 a week as a disincentive for Americans returning to work — the Trump administration has indicated that it's willing to reconfigure the aid so that it represents about 70 percent of a worker's former wages.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said that $1.3 trillion is "not enough" and has reiterated support for the inclusion of extra unemployment benefits and aid for state and local governments in the next round of aid.
"When they say it's too expensive, how can they say such a thing when, right now, the [Federal Reserve] is just propping up the stock market? The stock market looks good, huh?" she said. "Well, federal dollars are helping to make that happen. And that's okay, and that's a good thing for the economy. But we should have trillions of dollars to prop up workers. We've never seen anything like this."
Fox News' Chad Pergram contributed to this report