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Bipartisan Group of Senators Unveils $900 Billion Coronavirus Stimulus Proposal

The U.S. Capitol during a morning rainstorm on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., March 25, 2020. (Tom Brenner/Reuters)

A bipartisan group of senators on Tuesday unveiled a roughly $908 billion coronavirus stimulus package in an attempt to end months of political gridlock and bring economic relief to Americans as coronavirus cases surge across the country.

The proposal would provide $300 a week in additional unemployment benefits for four more months, according to the Washington Post, lower than Democrats’ desired $600 per week and would not include another direct payment to most Americans.

It would provide $160 billion in funding for state and local governments — spending Democrats have sought and Republicans have opposed, though the proposal also includes a six-month moratorium on some coronavirus-related lawsuits against firms and other entities, something Republicans have supported and most Democrats have opposed.

The proposal also includes $288 billion in small business aid such as Paycheck Protection Program loans as well as $16 billion for vaccine distribution, testing and contact tracing and $82 billion towards education. It would also allocate funds for rental assistance, child care and broadband.

Several centrist Senators, including Senators Joe Manchin (D., W. Va.), Mitt Romney (R., Utah), Susan Collins (R., Maine) and Mark Warner (D., Va.) have revealed their bipartisan deal as a template for legislation that could end the months-long political gridlock that has kept Congress from passing a second round of coronavirus relief. 

Warner has called the proposal an “interim package” to offer support until President-elect Joe Biden takes office on January 20.

“If there’s one thing I’m hearing uniformly it’s: ‘Congress, do not leave town for the holidays leaving the country and the economy adrift with all these initial CARES [Act] programs running out,’” Warner told CNBC, referring to programs including an unemployment insurance extension, a federal student loan payment moratorium and eviction protections set to lapse at the end of the month.

Roughly 12 million Americans could lose benefits if unemployment programs expire. Two policies set to lapse allow people to receive insurance for longer than they normally would and make freelance workers, contractors and others who normally would not qualify for benefits eligible to receive them.

Talks have stalled repeatedly, first over the summer and again before the November 3 election as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) has clashed with Republicans including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and President Trump’s negotiators, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin over what should be included in a second coronavirus stimulus package. 

Pelosi has sought a sweeping $2.2 trillion aid bill, while McConnell has backed more limited $500 billion legislation.

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