An unemployment provision presented a new road block for a third attempt to pass what would be the nation’s largest aid package in history.
The coronavirus stimulus deal worked out between Republicans and Democrats for a third round of stimulus totaling nearly $2 trillion would have added unemployment compensation at $600 a week for four months on top of the usual unemployment compensation, a benefit that varies by state.
A block of Republican senators, however, raised concerns about adding that much unemployment compensation, since the benefit in some states would then exceed available wages. That could produce an incentive to remain unemployed for that period of time, they suggested.
Lawmakers have been negotiating a coronavirus aid package for five days now with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. The amount was a compromise between Republicans and Democrats, since individual states can’t calculate compensation amounts individually.
The compromise bill’s provisions presently include:
• $500 billion for hard-hit industries, and a comparable amount in direct paymentsof up to $3,000 each for millions of U.S. families
• $350 billion for small business loans
• $250 billion for expanded unemployment
• $150 billion for various healthcare initiatives, including $100 billion for hospitals and related health systems
• $14 billion to support agriculture through the Commodity Credit Corporation, and additional funds for specialty crops, local food producers, livestock and dairy producers.
After the Senate passes the bill, the measure would still have to to go to the House, where Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said only that the revised bill is “an improvement.”
Pelosi has faced criticism from Republicans, who said Democrats are trying to use the coronavirus crisis as an opportunity to insert unrelated policy matters, like tax credits for green energy.
If the House approves the Senate bill without major changes, it would go to President Donald Trump for his signature, who has already signaled he will sign the bill. Trump has also been saying lately that he wants to end social distancing restrictions by Easter, April 12.
Health officials, however, have said that is likely too soon to end the lockdown, and have warned ending social distancing too soon could bring on a surge in virus-related deaths.
Coronavirus has so far sickened more than 53,000 people in the United States and killed 730. Cases of the virus are increasing rapidly in some states, particularly New York and California, both of whom have highly utilized international airports and ports.
Thousands of businesses across the country have been shuttered amid the coronavirus outbreak to try to curtail the virus spread and buy health care agencies more time to prepare. Other businesses are operating under new models, such as curbside pick up or delivery.
Millions of people have been laid off amid stay-home orders in various states, and various other measures to curb the spread of the virus.