/Bipartisan group of lawmakers unveil $908 billion COVID-19 relief proposal

Bipartisan group of lawmakers unveil $908 billion COVID-19 relief proposal


The proposal includes a $300 weekly boost to unemployment insurance benefits for 16 weeks, through the end of April, according to a summary of the legislation obtained by ABC News.

The proposal would also extend pandemic unemployment insurance programs that are set to expire at the end of December for another 16 weeks.

The framework also includes roughly $3.4 billion in grants for state, local, territories and tribes for vaccine development and distribution, and $7 billion in grants for contact tracing and testing.

There is $300 billion included for the Small Business Association loan program. Hard-hit businesses would be eligible for a second Paycheck Protection Program loan, but eligibility would be limited to small businesses with 300 or fewer employees that have sustained a 30% revenue loss in any quarter of 2020.

The bipartisan proposal also provides $25 billion for rental assistance and extends the federal eviction moratorium through January 2021.

It would also provide $82 billion for education providers, and extend student loan forbearance through the end of April.

Funding for the airline industry, public transit, the U.S. Postal Service, agricultural subsidies and broadband expansion is also included.

The summary makes no mention of another round of direct payments to Americans, which is something a growing number of Democrats and Republicans are asking be included.

Republican leadership has yet to weigh in on the bipartisan proposal.

“We’re still looking for a way forward,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters Wednesday.

The six-page summary does not include specific language on liability protections from coronavirus-related lawsuits and funding for state and local governments, which are two of the biggest sticking points in negotiations.

The proposal does include an “agreement in principle to provide $160 billion” for state and local governments “as the basis for good faith negotiations,” which is critical for Democrats.

It also includes an “agreement in principle” on liability shields, a priority for Republicans.

McConnell said Tuesday he’d be willing to drop state and local aid and liability protection language from the final bill, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer were quick to shoot down his recommendation.

“Negotiating 101 seems to suggest we set those two controversial measures aside and plow ahead with a huge pile of things we agree on, but that would require both sides to truly want to get an outcome,” McConnell said on the Senate floor Wednesday.

Schumer said earlier Tuesday that Democrats had been contacted by local leaders who said they will soon be forced to lay off essential workers, like firefighters, police officers and sanitation workers, without an infusion of cash from Congress.

“Within the Senate many Republicans support state and local funding,” Schumer said. “State and local funding is bipartisan, unlike the extreme corporate liability proposal Leader McConnell made which has no Democratic support.”

Meanwhile, a $916 billion White House proposal issued Tuesday by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin threatened to derail bipartisan negotiations altogether.

The White House offer included both liability reform and aid to state and local governments. It would re-purpose remaining money from the $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief bill, while drawing an additional $429 billion in Treasury funds.

The offer ultimately did not include a weekly enhancement of jobless benefits and would instead issue a one-time $600 stimulus check to Americans.

“The President’s proposal starts by cutting the unemployment insurance proposal being discussed by bipartisan Members of the House and Senate from $180 billion to $40 billion. That is unacceptable,” Pelosi and Senate Schumer, D-N.Y., said Tuesday in a joint statement.

“While it is progress that Leader McConnell has signed off on a $916 billion offer that is based off of the bipartisan framework, the President’s proposal must not be allowed to obstruct the bipartisan Congressional talks that are underway,” their statement said. “Members of the House and Senate have been engaged in good-faith negotiations and continue to make progress. The bipartisan talks are the best hope for a bipartisan solution.”

While lawmakers remain divided on the size and scope of a relief package, time is of the essence. Congress must negotiate and approve a roughly $1.4 trillion omnibus spending deal before the federal government shuts down on Dec. 18.

Congressional leaders are hoping to nail down a relief package that could be attached to the must-pass spending bill before they head home for the holidays.

ABC News’ Allison Pecorin and Trish Turner contributed to this report.

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