White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, said Friday that the president is open to signing a coronavirus relief bill with a $300 billion increase from Senate Republican’s HEALS Act, but shy of House Speaker Pelosi’s demand for a $2.2 trillion bill.
Previous discussions between Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Meadows, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, (D-NY) had not yielded any progress.
Both sides have agreed that more aid is necessary, but that seems to be the only area of consensus on how to help a nation still reeling from the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Two major sticking points in signing a bill are the amount of funding to include for pandemic unemployment insurance benefits and how much assistance should be allocated to both state and local governments.
Pelosi has remained steadfast in her stance that the amount needed to meaningfully provide aid is closer to double what the White House is willing to concede.
House Democrats, led by Pelosi and Schumer, are staunchly advocating for their version of a second stimulus package known as the HEROES Act, which would include a second round of direct stimulus payments to individuals and a continuation of the $600 weekly unemployment supplement through January of 2021.
Led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the Republican-backed HEALS Act focuses heavily on liability protections for businesses and schools and calls for a $200-a-week boost to standard unemployment checks. It, too, includes a provision for a second round of stimulus payments to households starting at $1,200 per family member.
Something’s Got to Give
An Aug. 27 Labor Department jobs report stated that more than 1 million Americans filed for unemployment in the last week, and small business relief plans like the Paycheck Protection Program have ended.
President Trump signed executive orders on Aug. 8, which included a Lost Wages Assistance Plan to extend the federal unemployment benefit boost using federal and state funds. The order calls for reducing the supplement to a possible $400 a week, down from $600. The federal government will pay $300, with states expected to come up with an additional $100 a week, should they choose to do so. Most states so far have opted out of the $100 supplement to the federal government payments.
This weekly benefit is in addition to regular state unemployment benefits, which vary in amount depending on the state. States have to apply for the federal funding, and to date, 35 states have been approved for funds. So far only Arizona, Louisiana, Missouri, Tennessee and Texas have begun to disburse these funds, with more states expected to follow soon.