Biparty coronavirus aid bill includes $ 300 per week for unemployment and student loan extensions, eviction assistance

An attempt by a group of lawmakers on both sides of the aisle and both houses of Congress to assemble a coronavirus aid package would extend and revive some of the most popular provisions of the CARES Act from March – at a big exception.

“We have your gift. Take it, ”said Senator Lisa Murkowski, a Republican from Alaska, touting the group’s legislation to party leaders as something that could be passed quickly in the Senate this week.

“It would be like Scrooge if we went out and let people on Boxing Day lose their unemployment, or the day after New Year’s day lose their apartments,” said Senator Mark Warner, a Democrat from Virginia. In addition to the 11 Senators at Monday’s unveiling, the package is supported by the co-chairs of the House Problem Solvers Caucus, an equally divided group of Democratic and Republican members of the House.

The group unveiled its plan in two separate bills – a more than 600-page, $ 748 billion bill that the group said included emergency articles supported unanimously, and a Smaller and separate $ 160 billion law to provide money to state, local and tribal governments. and coronavirus legal liability protections for businesses and nonprofits. The latter bill was widely supported by Republicans in the group but not by its Democrats.

The main bill would revive many of the most popular provisions of the $ 1.7 trillion CARES act starting in March, albeit briefly and often in a lean fashion.

Unemployment assistance would be extended for an additional 16 weeks, with a federal top-up payment on top of state unemployment checks revived to $ 300 per week, compared to $ 600 in CARES. Student loan forbearance would be extended until April 1, while a moratorium on evictions would be extended until January 31.

The politically popular paycheck protection program aimed at giving money to small businesses would be revived with $ 300 billion made available to establishments for a second round of aid. The loan forgiveness process for loans of $ 150,000 or less would be simplified.

The bill would also provide $ 45 billion in emergency transportation funding, including assistance to airlines, airports, buses, Amtrak and public transportation. An additional $ 82 billion would be spent on education, including $ 54 billion for Kindergarten to Grade 12 and $ 20 billion for higher education.

But the bill leaves out perhaps the most popular bit of the CARES Act – another round of direct checks to Americans similar to the $ 1,200 in the spring. This idea was pushed last week by a bizarre ideological couple, Liberal Independent Senator from Vermont Bernie Sanders and Republican Senator from Missouri Josh Hawley.

If the state and local part and liability protections were added, which seemed unlikely given Democratic opposition to the liability part, the entire proposal would cost around $ 908 billion.

Lawmakers face a narrowing window for action. Many want to marry a coronavirus aid bill with an emerging government funding deal that must be voted on by Friday to keep government open. The head of the Senate Appropriations Committee said Monday evening that he expected the bill to be tabled soon, possibly as early as Tuesday.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell also expressed a sense of finality. In his opening remarks to the Senate, McConnell said, “The next few days are going to have one of two outcomes – 100 senators will be here nodding, blaming and offering apologies for why we still don’t. could not make a law. Or we’ll take a break for the holidays after sending another huge dose of relief to those in need. “

“It’s up to us. We decide,” he said.

Senator John Cornyn, a Republican from Texas, said he was encouraged by what was in the bipartisan bill, although he said it would not be what would ultimately be passed.

“A lot of them have good stuff to include in the year-end spending bill,” he told reporters on Capitol Hill. “I don’t think they, the bipartisan group, ever expected their bill to become the bill that we actually passed, but I think it has a significant and positive influence on what will eventually be included. “

Late in the day, during a reading of a 22-minute conversation between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, the issue of state and local aid resurfaced, a spokesperson de Pelosi, in a tweet, said she reiterated her concerns about liability as “an obstacle to securing state and local funding.”

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