(CBS Detroit) — Centrist lawmakers from both parties have announced a $908 billion plan to address COVID relief, even as Democrats and Republicans remain far apart on a second stimulus package. The plan, revealed Monday, would help state and local governments, small businesses and individuals.
State and local governments would receive $160 billion to offset steep declines in revenues. Small businesses would be allocated $288 billion, at least partially through the Paycheck Protection Program, which loans money to businesses to keep employees on staff during the economic downturn. And the unemployed would be paid an additional $300 per week in federal unemployment benefits for four months, totaling $180 billion. A second round of stimulus checks is not currently part of the plan.
An additional $82 billion would be earmarked for education and another $16 billion for vaccine development and distribution. The details are still being worked out.
This framework aims to split the difference between previous proposals set forth by each party. House Democrats passed a revised $2.2 trillion HEROES Act in early October. It included a $1,200 stimulus check, an additional $600 per week in federal unemployment benefits and aid to cities and states, among other elements. They were negotiating with the White House, which had proposed a stimulus plan worth $1.8 trillion.
The Senate brought two smaller bills to a vote also in October. One was a $500 billion extension of the Paycheck Protection Program. The other was a $500 billion “skinny” package of stimulus that included a weekly federal unemployment benefit of $300. Neither Senate bills included stimulus checks or aid for cities and states. And neither passed.
Despite continued stimulus negotiations up until the election, no real progress was made. And since the election, negotiations have been at a standstill.
This latest bipartisan proposal was put together in the Senate by Democrats Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, Mark Warner of Virginia, and Joe Manchin of West Virginia, along with Independent Angus King of Maine and Republicans Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Susan Collins of Maine, and Mitt Romney of Utah. Representatives involved include Democrats Dean Phillips of Minnesota, Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey and Abigail Spanberger of Virginia, and Republicans Fred Upton of Michigan, Tom Reed of New York, Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio, and Dusty Johnson of South Dakota.
The proposal aims to break the logjam, giving each side some of what they want. The state and local government aid is supported by Democrats and opposed by Republicans. The proposed plan also includes a halt to coronavirus-based lawsuits against businesses, which Republicans support and Democrats oppose.
It’s unclear how much progress will be made on this plan, given opposition from the far right and far left. In recent weeks, President-elect Joe Biden has urged Congress to come to some sort of agreement regarding coronavirus relief.
The two sides continue to disagree, however, and parts of the economy continue to struggle. In the most recent week for which numbers are available, approximately 778,000 people applied for state unemployment benefits, and 311,000 applied for Pandemic Unemployment Insurance, a federal program for self-employed and gig workers. As of early November, 20.5 million people were receiving some form of unemployment assistance. Pandemic unemployment programs are set to run out at the end of December, and state benefits are already expiring for many workers.
COVID cases continue to rise nationwide, with four million cases in November alone. Just last week, over 200,000 cases were recorded in a single day. To date, the U.S. has surpassed 13.6 million recorded cases and 269,000 deaths. The domestic death toll is approximately 20 percent of the global death toll. With numbers trending in the wrong direction, limits on local economies are likely imminent, and with them additional job losses.
Positive news on vaccines provides some hope. Multiple COVID-19 vaccines have proved highly effective in late-stage trials and could be available to healthcare workers later in December. But an effective COVID vaccine won’t be widely distributed for months. In that time, the economic hardship may continue, unless a stimulus agreement is reached.