WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Republicans and Democrats in Congress aim to pass a fourth coronavirus aid plan before the end of the month, but they will have to overcome important differences.
The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives passed a $ 3.4 trillion virus relief bill in May. Republicans who control the Senate are expected to unveil a package that will cost more than $ 1,000 billion later this week, Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell said on Tuesday. The administration of Republican President Donald Trump has also weighed in with its own ideas.
As negotiations begin, this is where policymakers might find common ground – and where they disagree.
WHAT DO THEY AGREE?
– Direct payments to Americans. The March Congress authorized direct payments of up to $ 2,400 per family. The House bill would authorize another round of payments of up to $ 6,000 per household. Republicans also support another round of direct payments.
– Help for schools. Both sides have backed around $ 100 billion to support schools and universities, many of which had to implement distance learning this spring, and are urged by Trump to resume in-person learning this fall. One key difference: Republicans want to allocate half of that money to schools that try to teach in-person, according to Republican Senator Roy Blunt.
– Health expenditure. Republicans and Democrats also support increased funds for testing and other measures to contain the virus, as well as funds for hospitals and health care providers who treat sick people. The Trump administration initially opposed the money for testing, but now supports it as well.
– Small business. Both sides want to strengthen the Paycheck Protection Program, which provides grants and loans to small businesses that have been affected by the virus.
WHAT DO THEY NOT AGREE ON?
– Liability guarantees. Republicans want to protect businesses and other organizations from virus-related bodily injury lawsuits. Democrats oppose these protections. According to the American Association for Justice, which represents litigators, the personal injury cases represent 161 of the 3,400 COVID-related lawsuits filed to date.
– A reduction in social charges. Trump has pushed for a 7.65% payroll tax cut, which funds social security and medicare. Lawmakers on both sides have shown little interest.
– Other funding. Democrats have included funding for the U.S. Postal Service, the November election, food aid, transit systems, student loan relief, and a wide range of other programs. Republicans, who aim to reduce the overall cost of the bill, are unlikely to support these proposals.
WHAT IS IN FLUX?
– State and local government aid. Some 1.5 million teachers, firefighters and other public sector workers lost their jobs as state and local governments scrambled to close gaping budget gaps. Economists say more such layoffs will certainly occur without congressional support.
The House has authorized $ 960 billion in aid, but it’s unclear whether Senate Republicans will follow suit. Some have said they don’t want to ‘bail out’ liberal-leaning states that spend more on government, while others say such support is now needed as the pandemic has spread to more conservative regions. from the country.
– Unemployment assistance. Congress has increased unemployment benefits by $ 600 per week, but that allowance is due to expire in late July. Economists say this could slow the economic recovery and make it harder for millions of unemployed Americans to pay their bills.
The House bill would extend these benefits until February 2021. Republicans say the improved payments should be reduced because, combined with standard unemployment assistance, they provide more money to many people than they do. would not gain at work.
(This story corrects to make unemployment benefits weekly instead of monthly in the 16th paragraph.)
Reporting by Andy Sullivan; Editing by Scott Malone and Jonathan Oatis