The Democrats and the Republicans are finally serious about reaching a COVID-19 deal before Christmas, as new cases increase and hospitalizations and deaths expand across the country.
On Wednesday, more than 2800 COVID-19 deaths were reported in the United States, the highest daily death toll since the pandemic began early this year. With more than 100,000 Americans hospitalized, 20,000 of them in intensive care units and nearly 7,000 on ventilator, several states are reinstating the strict restrictions that were implemented in March and April to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Those restrictions come with economic pains – unemployment, business closures, evictions – that necessitate a fresh stimulus package from the federal government.
On Thursday, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) held talks about a possible pre-Christmas relief deal, with both sides expressing a desire to quickly pass a legislation.
“The Speaker and Leader McConnell spoke at 12.45 p.m. today by phone about their shared commitment to completing an omnibus and COVID relief as soon as possible, Drew Hammill, a spokesman for Pelosi, said on Thursday afternoon.
ON Tuesday, McConnell told reporters that additional COVID-19 funding would likely be added to the expected $1.4 trillion Omnibus spending package that would fund the federal government beyond December 11 through fiscal 2021, which ends on September 30. And on Wednesday, Speaker Pelosi told reporters “we will have an engagement” on coronavirus package funding by December 11, the date government funding is set to expire.
The Democrats and Republicans support a compromise proposal unveiled on Tuesday of $908 billion coronavirus relief bill that would include $160 billion funding for state and local governments.
The proposal would provide $180 billion in additional unemployment insurance, $288 billion in new funding for the Paycheck Protection Program, which gives small businesses access to loans, and $16 billion for vaccine development and distribution as well as virus testing and tracing.
The proposal would provide a weekly unemployment benefit of $300 to Americans who have lost their job due to COVID-19.
The proposal was presented to McConnell in his capitol office by four GOP senators – Sens Mitt Romney (Utah), Lisa Makowski (Alaska), Susan Collins (Maine) and Bill Cassidy (La).