A second round of stimulus checks are in the works, but a new study says people who are poor, Black or Latino were less likely to receive the $1,200.
WASHINGTON – Senate Republicans were scrambling Thursday to finalize a $1 trillion coronavirus relief package that will include another round of $1,200 stimulus checks and additional funding to help schools recover from the pandemic.
GOP leaders and the White House said late Wednesday that they had agreed on key parts of the legislation, which will serve as a starting point for negotiations with Democrats, who have already passed their own bill in the House.
But Republicans are still struggling to put the finishing touches on the package. Congress and the White House are under pressure to clinch a deal on a fresh pandemic aid package; a federal program of expanded unemployment benefits is set to run out within days.
One item that will be missing from the GOP plan is President Donald Trump’s demand for a payroll tax cut. Republicans abandoned that proposal even though Trump had suggested he might not sign any bill that doesn’t include it.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told reporters that a payroll tax cut will not be included in the bill because the focus is getting money to workers quickly. “The payroll tax takes time,” he said.
Trump said on Twitter that Republicans abandoned the payroll tax cut because of objections from Democrats.
“The Democrats have stated strongly that they won’t approve a Payroll Tax Cut (too bad!),” he wrote. “It would be great for workers. The Republicans, therefore, didn’t want to ask for it. Dems, as usual, are hurting the working men and women of our Country!”
The Republican relief package comes as the U.S. continues to reel from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 143,000 Americans and wreaked havoc on the economy. The Labor Department reported Thursday that the number of Americans filing jobless claims rose for the first time since March as 1.4 million people filed for unemployment claims.
GOP leaders hoped to release the package on Thursday. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said the Trump administration requested additional time to review the details. The proposal will be unveiled early next week, he said.
“We have an agreement in principle on the shape of this package,” McConnell said.
Democrats immediately slammed the GOP package, saying it doesn’t go far enough to counter the effects of the pandemic.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said the proposal “doesn’t reconcile with the needs of the American people.” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called it “unsatisfactory and fundamentally unserious.”
The Republican legislation will include a limited extension of unemployment benefits, Mnuchin told reporters on Capitol Hill.
An extra $600 unemployed Americans receive on top of their weekly benefits is set to run out at the end of the month. Mnuchin said the GOP plan would extend those supplemental benefits but not at the current level. The supplemental benefit will be restructured so that instead of a $600 flat rate, a new formula would be used to replace 70% of a worker’s lost wages through combined state and federal benefits. That would lower the federal benefit to about $200 a week for the average worker.
“We realize there are a lot of hardworking Americans who, because of COVID, still won’t have jobs, and we do not want that to expire,” Mnuchin said. “On the other hand, we’ve said we were in a different situation last time.”
Some Republicans argued the extra $600 was a disincentive for some Americans to return to work because they were earning more through unemployment than through their job. Jettisoning the $600 benefit for a new 70% wage replacement formula is an attempt to address those concerns.
The relief package will be rolled out in separate pieces of legislation instead of one comprehensive bill. Because the unemployment benefits will expire at the end of the month, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said the Senate may have to take that up first, along with school funding, then deal with the other issues later.
Pelosi and other Democrats immediately rejected that approach. “No. No, no,” Pelosi said. “We cannot piecemeal this.”
Though many details of the GOP proposal still must be worked out, it is expected to provide $70 billion in new funding for elementary and secondary schools. Half will be distributed on a per capita basis, and the rest will be awarded to schools that reopen this fall.
Mnuchin said the package also will include $16 billion in new coronavirus testing, additional funding for the Paycheck Protection Program for small businesses, tax credits to encourage companies to hire workers and another round of direct payments to individuals.
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The GOP proposal for more direct payments has “the exact same provisions as last time,” when $1,200 stimulus checks were sent to individuals earning $75,000 or less a year, Mnuchin said.
Since the coronavirus outbreak first hit the U.S., Congress and the White House have approved more than $3 trillion in aid, passing a series of bills that provided loans and grants to businesses hurt by the pandemic, stimulus checks to Americans, expanded unemployment for laid-off workers and money for increased testing and vaccine research.
For this round, House Democrats passed a $3 trillion bill in May that includes an extension of the $600 increase in unemployment benefits, a second $1,200 stimulus check for individuals and families, about $1 trillion for state and local governments, additional worker protections and more money for testing and contact tracing.
McConnell dismissed the House bill as “a nonstarter” and said Republicans would come up with their own plan.
Contributing: Christal Hayes
Michael Collins covers the White House. Reach him on Twitter @mcollinsNEWS.
Read or Share this story: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2020/07/23/coronavirus-gop-plan-calls-more-stimulus-checks-school-funding/5489044002/
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