Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, speaks to the press after a Republican policy lunch on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on July 21, 2020.
Olivier Douliery | AFP | Getty Images
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell unveiled the Republican coronavirus relief plan on Monday as Congress scrambles to respond to a pandemic still wreaking havoc across the country.
The GOP outlined its plan after states stopped paying out the $600 per week enhanced federal unemployment benefit and a federal eviction moratorium expired. Senate GOP leaders want their proposal to serve as a starting point in talks with Democrats on a bill that could pass both chambers of Congress.
McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, said the legislation would include relief for jobless Americans, another direct payment to individuals of up $1,200, more Paycheck Protection Program small business loan funds and liability protections for doctors and businesses, among other provisions.
While the Senate GOP leader did not specify how the party would construct the unemployment benefit, reports Monday indicated the party aims to set the enhanced insurance at 70% of a worker’s previous wages, and set the sum at an additional $200 per week while states figure out how to implement the new policy — a third of what individuals received previously. States have worried about their ability to quickly figure out a policy change as Americans wait on unemployment insurance.
Republican committee chairs were set to unveil the major portions of the bill Monday.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., plan to meet with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows at 6 p.m. ET. In a statement earlier Monday, the speaker called to start negotiations following release of the GOP plan.
“If Republicans care about working families, this won’t take long. Time is running out. Congress cannot go home without an agreement,” Pelosi said, referencing lawmakers’ planned August recess.
McConnell, in outlining the plan Monday, urged Democrats to come to an agreement quickly.
“The pandemic is not finished. The economic pain is not finished. So Congress cannot be finished either,” he said.
The GOP hoped to release a pandemic aid plan last week, but senators and the White House struggled to reach a consensus as Covid-19 cases and deaths rise around the country. Democrats, who passed a $3 trillion relief plan in May, will look to change many provisions in the Republican opening offer.
For now, the roughly 30 million people still receiving some form of unemployment insurance wait to see how quickly Congress will extend assistance — and whether it slashes benefits when it does. Speaking after McConnell unveiled the plan, Schumer said the reported Republican jobless benefit proposal would hurt unemployed Americans, draw money out of the economy and prove daunting for states to implement.
“The Republican proposal on unemployment benefits, simply put, is unworkable,” he said.
Republicans and Democrats are at odds over how best to lift an American economy and health-care system damaged by an outbreak the U.S. has failed to contain. As of Monday afternoon, the U.S. had reported more than 4.2 million Covid-19 cases and roughly 147,000 deaths from the disease, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
The U.S. had an unemployment rate above 11% in June even after two strong months of job gains driven by states reopening their economies. But many states have had to pause or roll back their restart plans in response to coronavirus case spikes.
Congress has already approved more than $2.5 trillion in spending this year to combat the health and economic crises.
This story is developing. Please check back for updates.