Monday, April 12, 2021

A new US stimulus bill could arrive as early as Monday

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A bipartisan group of US senators will unveil legislation on Monday to additional fiscal stimulus worth around $ 908 billion, in an effort to speed up aid to an economy threatened with further decline due to a record peak in coronavirus cases.

But Mark Warner, one of the Democratic senators at the head of the bipartisan group of ten people calling for relief funds, admitted the effort was catching fire on both sides of the aisle over their proposed emergency four months.

“We may have to go through a few more days of drama,” Sen Warner told CNN on Sunday. He added that it was not clear whether a Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would allow the bill to go ahead for a vote, despite positive feelings about the effort.

The proposal includes $ 288 billion in assistance for small businesses, $ 180 billion in unemployment benefits that would increase weekly payments by $ 300 and $ 160 billion for cash-strapped state and local governments. It would also offer aid to sectors in difficulty, including $ 17 billion for the airline industry. A sticking point remains whether to give liability protection to companies that reopened during the pandemic.

Leading progressive Democrats, including Senator Bernie Sanders, have opposed any move to bail out companies, saying many failed to take care of workers during the pandemic. They also oppose the deal as it lacks direct payments for the most vulnerable.

“It’s bad morally and it’s bad economically,” he tweeted on Friday, adding that he would not support the legislation unless it was “drastically improved.”

Dick Durbin, another Democratic senator from the bipartisan group, told ABC News on Sunday that such direct payment checks of $ 1,200, however, would cost an additional $ 300 billion. But he nonetheless called for support for the upcoming bill, saying 12 million Americans would lose their unemployment insurance on Dec. 26.

Fears of a hesitant US recovery have revived stalled bipartisan talks after a poor November jobs report released on Friday. slower job growth at a monthly rate of 245,000. There are still 9.8 million fewer Americans with jobs than in February before the pandemic.

The United States also experienced a series of record daily highs of the coronavirus over the past week, registering 224,831 new cases on Friday. More than 101,000 people were in hospital on Friday and Saturday, marking another appalling record, according to the Covid Tracking Project. The daily death toll topped 2,500 on Friday for the third day in a row, dipping just below Saturday. More than 7,000 people remain on respiratory assistance.

Donald Trump, who held his first campaign rally over the weekend since losing the election, is likely to approve the deal unless the House and Senate pass a bill by majority vote. two-thirds. Neither the president nor many of his supporters wore masks during the event in Georgia, which has seen a record number of new cases of Covid-19 in recent days.

Bill Cassidy, a Republican senator from the bipartisan group pushing for a deal, said he was “optimistic” that Mr. Trump and Mr. McConnell “would join.”

Joe Biden, the president-elect, has expressed support for a deal, although he said on Friday that it would be “better” to include $ 1,200 in direct checks. He then said he believed “may still be at stake”, although Republicans rejected the idea.

Mr Warner said his group planned to hold a ‘several hour’ call later on Sunday to determine the final language of the legislation and insisted he was likely to pass if given time to vote .

“It would be what I call ‘stupidity on steroids’ if Congress doesn’t act,” he said on Sunday, arguing that neither party would get the full amount or all of the components that they wanted.

Additional reporting by James Politi and Courtney Weaver in Washington

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