Congressional leaders are closing in on a second coronavirus relief package that will include direct stimulus payments and a $300 federal unemployment benefit.
The bill, however, won’t include liability protections or aid to state and local governments, according to CNBC. Disagreements over those two issues have continued and lawmakers have put those to the side to complete a bill.
“We made major headway toward hammering out a targeted pandemic relief package that would be able to pass both chambers with bipartisan majorities,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on the Senate floor Wednesday.
In addition to a second stimulus payment and the federal unemployment benefit, the package would also include $300 billion in small business aid, including the Paycheck Protection Program. Funds would also be allocated for testing, vaccine distribution, and relief for hospitals.
According to The Hill, leaders in the Senate and House want to attach the package to the $1.4 trillion spending bill that is being negotiated. Tying the two together will increase the chances the stimulus bill passes. Congress must reach an agreement on the spending bill in order to avoid a government shutdown beginning Saturday.
Senate Republican Whip John Thune, who is also on the Senate Finance Committee, told reporters Wednesday that the weekly federal unemployment benefit will be $300 and the stimulus payment will be between $600 and $700. Both are hundreds less than the first round totals, but with Americans heading toward month four with little to no government help, the news should be received positively.
If Democrats John Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock win their senate runoffs on January 5, a third package will be much easier to negotiate and pass, if necessary.
If the bill passes and is accepted into law by President Trump, it would be a win for Republicans and a loss for Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. In August, Republicans wanted to keep the second stimulus under $1 trillion, but Pelosi drew a line in the sand saying the next package will be worth at least $2.2 trillion or nothing.
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said an agreement is close, but cautioned Americans from celebrating too early, saying “it’s not a done deal yet, but we are very close.”
For Democrats this has always been about getting the American people the relief they need at a time of an acute national crisis, of an emergency to so many Americans,” he said. “This has been about delivering a lifeline to Americans who were laid off through no fault of their own.”