NATIONAL NEWS

Next Virus Aid Package Could Easily Swell Past $1 Trillion

Jul 21, 2020, 3:22 PM
WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 21: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) after weekly policy luncheo...
WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 21: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) after weekly policy luncheons on Capitol Hill July 21, 2020 in Washington, DC. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday promised a new round of direct payments to earners below a certain income level, similar to the $1,200 checks sent in the spring. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)
(Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The price tag for the next COVID-19 aid package could quickly swell above $1 trillion as White House officials negotiate with Congress over money to reopen schools, prop up small businesses, boost virus testing and keep cash flowing to Americans while the virus crisis deepens in the U.S.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday promised a new round of direct payments to earners below a certain income level, similar to the $1,200 checks sent in the spring. President Donald Trump insists on a payroll tax holiday for workers. And Democrats want billions to outfit schools and shore up local governments.

“Regretfully, this is not over,” McConnell said, urging Americans to learn to live with the new virus by wearing masks and practicing social distancing until a vaccine can be found.

Treasury Secretary Mnuchin and acting chief of staff Mark Meadows spent the day on Capitol Hill, meeting separately with McConnell, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and others trying to broker a compromise between the GOP’s emerging $1 trillion proposal with the House’s more sweeping $3 trillion bill.

Several GOP senators emerged from a private lunch session outraged at the potential outlays, vowing to stall the relief bill’s passage.

“They should be ashamed of themselves,” said Rand Paul of Kentucky.

Paul compared fellow Republicans to the “Bernie bros” — referring to the young supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. “This is insane. … There’s no difference now between the two parties.”

Sen. Rick Scott, of Florida said it’s wrong to “bail out” cash-strapped states. “Florida taxpayers are not going to pay for New York’s expenses,” he said.

With the pandemic showing no signs of easing, officials acknowledge the daunting challenge of trying to contain the coronavirus and prevent further economic distress. The U.S. has rising infections and a death toll of 140,800, more than anywhere else in the world. The health crisis is worsening just as emergency aid is about to expire.

Meadows told reporters the president wants to ensure the funding package “meets the legitimate needs that are before the American people.”

The Republicans are poised to roll out a $1 trillion package, what McConnell called a “starting point” in talks. It’s a counter-offer to Pelosi’s $3 trillion House-passed plan as they race to strike a deal by the end of the month. That’s when a $600 weekly unemployment benefits boost and other aid, including a federal rental moratorium on millions of apartment units, expires.

McConnell’s package wold send a fresh round of direct cash payments to Americans below a certain income level, likely $75,000 for singles, extend small business loans under the Paycheck Protection Program and create a five-year liability shield against what he warns is a potential “epidemic” of coronavirus lawsuits.

It’s also expected to include at least $70 billion to help schools reopen and $25 billion in virus testing funds. Republicans want to replace the $600 weekly federal jobless benefit with a lower amount, to prevent the unemployed from receiving more aid than they would through a normal paycheck, Republicans said.

But the president’s priorities are splitting his GOP allies in Congress giving momentum to Democrats as talks are underway.

Trump wants a full repeal of the 15.3% payroll tax, which is split among employers and employees, and funds Social Security and Medicare. Experts say that alone would cost $600 billion. At a White House meeting on Monday, GOP leaders told Trump they preferred to include only a partial payroll tax cut.

Easing the payroll tax is dividing Trump’s party because it does little to help out-of-work Americans and adds to the debt load. The tax is already being deferred for employers under the previous virus relief package. Supporters say cutting it now for employees would put money in people’s pockets and stimulate the economy.

The administration also panned the push for more virus testing money, saying earlier allotments remain unspent.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Tuesday the administration wants “targeted” funds for the next round of aid, rather than adding more to the existing pot. She said no one is holding up the money.

Senate Democrats began investigating why the Trump administration has left almost half the testing money unspent.

Democrats broadly dismissed the emerging GOP plan as favoring corporate interests over America’s working families. Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said the White House and Senate Republicans delayed action as the crisis deepened and Americans are “experiencing needless pain.”

House Democrats have approved $100 billion as an education stabilization fund and Senate Democrats are seeking even more, $430 billion for schools and universities to re-open — with money for spacing students apart, buying masks for daily use and alternating bus schedules.

The political stakes are high for both parties before the November election, and even more so for the nation, as the virus crisis and economic fallout hits cities large and small.

Joe Biden, the Democrats’ presumed presidential nominee, stated his own priorities,.urging “a lifeline to those who need it most: working families and small businesses.”

Trump’s renewed focus on therapeutics and a vaccine is falling flat on Capitol Hill as lawmakers understand any COVID-19 cures remain months, if not a year, from widespread distribution in the U.S. The federal government is still struggling to provide basic medical supplies and personal protective equipment to health care providers.

Mnuchin vowed to stay on Capitol Hill for the next two weeks, determined to reach a deal by month’s end.

The proposed virus aid package would be the fifth, following the $2.2 trillion bill passed in March, the largest U.S. intervention of its kind. The jobless rate has remained in double digits, higher than in the last decade’s Great Recession, and a federal eviction moratorium on millions of rental units approved in the last bill is about to expire.

___

Associated Press writers Andrew Taylor, Darlene Superville and Alexandra Jaffe in Washington contributed to this report.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

National News

Clarence Gilyard Jr. has died at the age of 66. (Arlene Richie/Shutterstock)...
Toyin Owoseje, CNN

Clarence Gilyard, ‘Die Hard’ and ‘Walker, Texas Ranger’ star, dead at 66

Clarence Gilyard, the actor best known for playing computer hacker Theo in "Die Hard" and naval flight officer Marcus "Sundown" Williams in "Top Gun," has died at the age of 66.
15 hours ago
Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) speaks during a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hea...
Michael Houck

Mitt Romney calls Trump a ‘gargoyle’ after dinner with Ye, Nick Fuentes

Utah Senator Mitt Romney called former President Donald Trump a gargoyle hanging over the Republican party after his dinner with white supremacist Nick Fuentes and rapper Ye.
15 hours ago
Tea time and Christmastime coincide at The Plaza's elegant Palm Court, where three holiday tea menu...
Marnie Hunter, CNN

15 luxury hotels that go all out for Christmas

These luxury hotels have the most glamorous Christmas decorations of the season.
15 hours ago
BRUSSELS, BELGIUM - OCTOBER 13: Defence ministers and delegates are seen at the start of the North ...
STEPHEN McGRATH, LORNE COOK and ELLEN KNICKMEYER, Associated Press

NATO renews membership vow to Ukraine, pledges arms and aid

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg says war-torn Ukraine will one day become a member of the world’s largest security alliance
15 hours ago
The McGold Card is back at McDonald's. (McDonald's)...
Jordan Valinsky, CNN Business

McDonald’s is giving people the chance to win free food for life

Beginning December 5, every order completed in the McDonald's app for at least $1 will enter customers into a contest to win a McGold Card.
15 hours ago
A woman in Minnesota loses peripheral vision from apparent exposure to mercury in beauty creams.
(T...
Meera Senthilingam, CNN

Mother loses peripheral vision from apparent exposure to mercury in beauty creams

A woman in Minnesota lost part of her vision and inadvertently put her entire household at risk of mercury poisoning, most likely from using beauty creams.
15 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

house with for rent sign posted...
Chase Harrington, president and COO of Entrata

Top 5 reasons you may want to consider apartment life over owning a home

There are many benefits of renting that can be overshadowed by the allure of buying a home. Here are five reasons why renting might be right for you.
Festive kitchen in Christmas decorations. Christmas dining room....
Lighting Design

6 Holiday Decor Trends to Try in 2022

We've rounded out the top 6 holiday decor trends for 2022 so you can be ahead of the game before you start shopping. 
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to choose what MBA program is right for you: Take this quiz before you apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Diverse Group of Energetic Professionals Team Meeting in Modern Office: Brainstorming IT Programmer...
Les Olson

Don’t let a ransomware attack get you down | Protect your workplace today with cyber insurance

Business owners and operators should be on guard to protect their workplace. Cyber insurance can protect you from online attacks.
Hand turning a thermostat knob to increase savings by decreasing energy consumption. Composite imag...
Lighting Design

5 Lighting Tips to Save Energy and Money in Your Home

Advances in lighting technology make it easier to use smart features to cut costs. Read for tips to save energy by using different lighting strategies in your home.
Portrait of smiling practitioner with multi-ethnic senior people...
Summit Vista

How retirement communities help with healthy aging

There are many benefits that retirement communities contribute to healthy aging. Learn more about how it can enhance your life, or the life of your loved ones.
Next Virus Aid Package Could Easily Swell Past $1 Trillion