With time running out, lawmakers on Sunday closed in on a proposed COVID-19 relief bill that would provide roughly $300 in extra federal weekly unemployment benefits but not another round of $1,200 in direct payments to most Americans, leaving that issue for a new Congress next year.
The $908 billion aid package twould be attached to a larger year-end spending bill needed to avert a government shutdown this coming weekend.
The cash payments were popular when they were first distributed after the pandemic hit.
But senators involved in the talks said the checks won’t be included as part of the compromise.
The plan being worked on by a group of Republican and Democratic senators is less than half of the Democrats’ push of $2.2 trillion and nearly double the $500 billion “targeted” package proposed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., agreed that a new round of direct checks “may be a go” at some point. “This is not a stimulus bill, it’s a relief bill,” he said. “And it’s something for the next three to four months to help those in greatest need.”
Both he and Durbin said that McConnell has shown interest in the bipartisan effort, and Cassidy said he was hopeful that President Donald Trump would embrace it as well.
The proposal is expected to include about $300 per week in bonus federal unemployment payments, providing relief just as emergency aid payments at regular benefit levels are set to expire at year’s end. It would extend a freeze on evictions for people who cannot pay their rent and reauthorize the Paycheck Protection Program to give a second round of subsidies to businesses struggling through the pandemic.
Sen. Joe Manchin, a moderate Democrat who often works across the aisle, said the bipartisan group was focused on extending the most urgent aid for the next four months.
“Every indication says more money is needed; we see that,” he said. “This gets us through basically the lifelines that people need and the small businesses that can survive and not go under.”
Updated Tuesday, December 8, 2020 at 12:16 pm .