US Lawmakers Struggle to Deliver COVID-19 Relief Ahead of Election Day

19 Oct

US Lawmakers Struggle to Deliver COVID-19 Relief Ahead of Election Day

U.S. lawmakers are running out of time to pass a second massive round of aid addressing the economic and health crises caused by the coronavirus.  House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will speak with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin Monday ahead of a self-imposed 48-hour deadline to reach a deal before Election Day on Nov. 3. If the White House and Democratic-majority House of Representatives cannot reach an agreement by Tuesday, the next opportunity for negotiations on aid will come during a lame-duck session of Congress in November and December. Pelosi Signals Pre-election Coronavirus Relief DeadlineHouse speaker says a deal must be reached by Tuesday or it won’t get done before Nov. 3 electionIn a letter to House members Sunday, Pelosi expressed optimism about the chances of reaching a deal. But she also told ABC’s “This Week Sunday” news program that the Trump administration had removed key language from the legislation that laid out testing and tracing strategies. “So, on this subject where we have agreement, we don’t have agreement in the language yet. But I’m hopeful,” Pelosi said.  U.S. lawmakers have repeatedly failed to reach an agreement on a second round of economic aid to millions of Americans impacted by the pandemic. In September, Senate Republicans failed to pass a slimmed-down $500 billion aid proposal. The House passed the $2.2 trillion Heroes Act in June and has so far rebuffed the administration’s offer of $1.8 trillion for a new round of aid. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced the Senate will vote on another $500 billion proposal Wednesday. That bill would provide funding for a new round of unemployment benefits and the popular Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). U.S. President Donald Trump announced an end to negotiations on a new round of aid earlier this month before reversing course and tweeting, “Go big or go home!” His expression of support for a larger topline number closer to House Democrats’ asks for close to $2 trillion and has caused discomfort among many Senate Republicans. The $2 trillion CARES Act, passed by bipartisan agreement in March, was one of the largest aid packages in U.S. history, providing $600 in weekly enhanced unemployment benefits for millions of out of work Americans.   The weekly benefits expired on July 31.The U.S. economy is showing some signs of recovery from the lockdowns instituted earlier this year to contain the spread of the virus. More than 11.4 million jobs have been recovered, and there are signs of increased hiring in hard-hit industries such as tourism. New unemployment claims jumped last week to more than 890,000, the highest level since mid-August, although continuing unemployment claims dropped to 10 million.  The U.S. leads the world with 219,000 COVID-19 deaths, as well as infections, with more than 8 million cases total, according to Johns Hopkins University.

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