Congress Tackles More COVID Relief Before August Recess

Jul 31, 2020  | 3 min  | Ep4550

This week, U.S. Senate Republicans unveiled the Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection and Schools, or HEALS Act, a $1 trillion proposal that would provide another round of national aid in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Senator Mitch McConnell/R-Kentucky/Senate Majority Leader:  “Every bill has to start somewhere. The Republicans are in the majority in the Senate. This is the starting place. And we'll get…you all will have plenty of stories to cover along the way as we have these discussions back and forth across party lines and with the administration."

The debate comes months after the U.S. House of Representatives passed its HEROES Act, a COVID-19 follow-up relief package authored by the Democratic majority that tips the scales at over $3 billion.  Democrats panned the Senate’s initial offer ahead of this week’s looming unemployment assistance cliffhanger.

Senator Chuck Shumer/D-New York/Senate Minority Leader: “We had hoped that there would be a bill.  Instead, in the Senate they put together little pieces here and there any everywhere. It's pretty clear that they don't have 51 votes in the Senate among the Republicans for a proposal. And it's frustrating because they dithered for three months.”

With the virus death toll climbing and over 4 million infections nationwide, both parties are eager for a deal.

Representative Nancy Pelosi/D-California/Speaker of the House:  “Right now, we're at a time when children are food insecure in their homes. People are hungry who thought they'd never go to a food bank. People are being on the verge of eviction because they can't pay the rent.”

While the Republican plan excludes more funding for food and nutrition programs, various commodity groups lauded the farm-tailored aspects for the next incarnation of the Paycheck Protection Program. However, there were mixed reactions to the Senate framework that added another $20 billion for agriculture.

Democrats had proposed just $16.5 billion in direct aid to farmers but their plan would allow for expanded USDA lending and a 45-cent per gallon payment to ethanol producers. 

Senator Chuck Grassley/R-Iowa/Senate Agriculture Committee:  “We're going continue the economic impact payments that were made in April and May. That means that the average family of four will could will get another payment of thirty-four hundred dollars.”

Congress must hash-out the legislative details before an August recess. GOP deficit hawks and the Trump Administration are expected to seek daylight between current stimulus and past criticism of similar Democratic action during President Obama’s tenure.

President Barack Obama:  “We need to put people to work.”

For Market to Market, I’m Josh Buettner.

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