$908 billion coronavirus relief bill introduced by bipartisan, bicameral group

A group of lawmakers consisting of both Democrats and Republicans from the House and Senate introduced a $908 billion coronavirus relief package that they hope to get passed before lawmakers break for the holidays and the current term of Congress ends. 

The legislation is completely different from other bills that have been introduced or passed previously. It is not known whether House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) or Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) supports the bill’s passage.

The bill includes $160 billion for states and cities, $180 billion for unemployment insurance and $288 billion for more small business assistance through the Paycheck Protection Program.

The additional unemployment offered in the bill would be $300 per week for 18 weeks in addition to state amounts and would be retroactive to December 1. A previous bill offered $600 per week above state limits.

Bill intended to be stopgap measure

Other parts of the bill would give assistance to the transportation industry, $16 billion for vaccine development, and more funding for schools, child care and the Postal Service.

The funds are only intended to be used during the first quarter of 2021 as coronavirus cases spike to record levels and affect businesses with further shutdowns or with illnesses of essential personnel.

“It’s been said, this is not what everybody would wish. People are going to look at these buckets and they’re going to say, ‘Well, my bucket isn’t there,’ or ‘My bucket is only half full.’ Well, this is… emergency relief. This is designed to get us through this next quarter,” said Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK).

After months of rapid recovery and a lull between case spikes, the economy is once again sputtering from shutdowns and slowdowns designed to keep more people apart during what is turning out to be the biggest case spike yet this fall.

Noticeably absent from the proposal, however, are stimulus checks that many other bills offered to all Americans to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus on their lives. In addition, the money for state and local governments has long been a sticking point for Republicans, who don’t want to see taxpayers bail out failing Democrat-run cities.

McConnell would add relief bill to omnibus

McConnell did not refer to the new bipartisan relief proposal, but said Tuesday that any coronavirus relief passed by both Houses would be folded into the Senate’s $1.4 trillion omnibus spending bill that needs to be passed before the end of the year to keep the government running.

The majority leader has been said to favor a $500 billion bill, and this one is almost twice that. Already more than $3 trillion has been spent by Congress since March to mitigate coronavirus effects on the economy.

The U.S. was already in a position of deficit spending before the coronavirus hit, which means all relief spending would add to the country’s deficit.

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