U.S. congressional negotiators on Wednesday “closed” a $ 900 billion Covid-19 aid bill that will include $ 600-700 in stimulus checks and extended unemployment benefits as Friday’s deadline follows, lawmakers and aides said.
Chief members of the Democratically Controlled House of Representatives and the Republican-controlled Senate sounded more positive than they had months ago on a new response to the crisis that killed more than 304,000 Americans and expelled millions from work.
For months, Republicans have been fighting for a much lower-priced stimulus package than Democrats want. The two sides appear to have found common ground on a $ 908 billion aid package – more than 1 tonne less than the first stimulus package.
Their helpers struggled to develop a legislative language on Wednesday as the rate of Covid-19 infections rises to a new high, even as the United States begins vaccinating people. The US economy is showing signs of weakening.
Negotiators sought to change the approach to supporting hard-hit states and local governments, which was a key democratic priority but opposed by Republicans, a familiar source in the talks said. The measure, which must be attached to an expenditure bill to be passed on Friday to prevent the government from stalling, is not expected to include new protection for companies against pandemic-related lawsuits that are on Republicans ’agendas.
Senator Dick Durbin, Democrat No. 2 in the chamber, said it was the goal of reaching Wednesday’s agreement and ready to vote starting Thursday.
The majority leader of the Republican Senate, Mitch McConnell, was optimistic.
“We have made great progress towards developing a targeted pandemic response package,” McConnell said in the Senate. “We need vaccine distribution money, we need to re-establish the Paycheck Protection Program to save jobs, we need to continue to care for laid-off Americans.”
The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) is a federal loan and support program for small businesses suffering from the epidemic.
But the House’s Democratic leader, Steny Hoyer, said if the deadline for approving the spending measure is not met by Friday midnight, he could envision another three- to four-day spending bill to keep government agencies open while negotiations continue.
Senator John Thune, the Senate’s second Republican, says direct payments proposed to individuals will be between about $ 600 and $ 700 per person.
Mark Ritacco, director of government affairs for the National Association of Counties, said Congress could take some steps to help local authorities, including providing a one-year extension of unused funds provided by the Cares Act, a Covid-19 aid bill passed in March.
His organization also hopes Congress will expand the number of counties receiving support to include smaller counties, especially that they will have to inject new vaccines. He suggested that the federal government pay for local Covid-19 relief costs, which are already partially reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema), such as personal protective equipment for schools and other government buildings.
However, some Republicans are wary that if Fema pays more, it is a roundabout of support for state and local governments.
“If this is simply a way to disguise money for state and local governments, we will have a lot of opposition,” Thune said.
The talks are taking place at a key moment in the U.S. economy, which is clearly weakening after the pandemic earlier this year triggered an initial recovery in the recession. In the summer and early fall, consumer spending boosted by more than $ 3 tons with federal aid hit a wall as new closures constrained business and kept people at home.
Joe Biden said the stimulus package was encouraging, but more help would be needed.
“They seem to be very, very close to each other and there seem to be direct cash payments, but it’s an advance – an important advance – on what will have to be done by the end of January. , to February, ”the president-elect told reporters.
Department of Commerce data showed that retail sales fell unexpectedly sharply in November, with consumer spending on goods and services showing softness everywhere.
The Federal Reserve promised on Wednesday that it would continue to disburse financial markets against the recession to combat the recession, even as policy makers ’prospects for next year have improved since the initial introduction of the coronavirus vaccine.