Underscoring the importance of providing federal emergency relief before Congress adjourns for the holidays, more than a dozen lawmakers on Tuesday unveiled a bipartisan stimulus proposal worth $908 billion.
The effort from the bipartisan group, which includes Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.), Mitt Romney (R-Utah), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.), adds to the mounting pressure for relief as the nation faces a stark economic downturn amid a third coronavirus wave.
“It is inexcusable for us to leave town and not have an agreement,” Sen. Manchin said. “I’m sure we can work, the way the Senate and the way Congress was intended to work in a bipartisan way.”
The plan was introduced during a Tuesday morning press conference as a bipartisan framework for a stimulus package that would provide immediate relief over the next four months. It calls for $160 billion for state and local governments, $288 billion for small businesses, including an additional round of Paycheck Protection Program funding, and $180 billion for unemployment insurance programs.
The framework had just a few details on how the money would be allocated but there was no mention of a one-time $1,200 payment that Americans received earlier in the early in the last stimulus package. The proposal also includes:
$12 billion in support for community development financial institutions (CDFIs) and Minority Depository Institutions (MDIs) to help low-income and minority communities especially hard-hit by COVID-19.
- $45 billion for transportation, including mass transit, airlines, airports, buses and Amtrak
- $16 billion for vaccine development and distribution & COVID-19 testing and tracing
- $35 billion in relief for healthcare providers
- $82 billion for K-12 schools and colleges/universities
- $4 billion in emergency student loan relief
- $25 billion in emergency rental assistance
- $26 billion for supplemental nutrition assistance and relief for farmers and agricultural producers
- $10 billion for the U.S. Postal Service
- $10 billion for child care
- $10 billion for broadband
- $5 billion for opioid treatment
- Senators from both sides of the aisle said that neither party got exactly what they wanted during negotiations, explaining that a compromise would be the only way to pass such a package.
“Not going to make everyone happy,” Sen. Warner said at the press conference. “There’s been a lot of, enormously good give and take. I came in this with the notion that I’m hearing from Virginians. Somebody used it and I borrowed their term, it would be ‘stupidity on steroids’ if Congress left for Christmas without doing an interim package as a bridge.”
“Today is a victory for the American people, it’s a victory for common sense,” Sen. Cassidy added. The Republican senator from Louisiana took a moment to thank the Problem Solvers Caucus, a bipartisan caucus in the House, for its effort during the process.
Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.), a moderate who recently won re-election in Virginia’s 7th Congressional District race and a member of the Problem Solvers Caucus, mentioned the work that the group put in to develop a framework in a conversation with 8News in October. The congresswoman attended Tuesday’s press conference, releasing a statement following the announcement of the plan.
“Working families, small businesses, restaurant owners, and our communities need relief — and Congress must act,” Spanberger said. “The failure to provide that relief over the last several months has been shameful, especially given that there are relief provisions and programs that are supported by both parties and both chambers of Congress, and most importantly, needed by the American people and our economy.”
The proposal extends unemployment programs that are set to expire after Christmas, but only provides $300 in additional benefits for Americans who are out of work for 18 weeks. Democrats had previously pushed for $600, the original amount of enhanced weekly unemployment benefits that ended this summer, during talks.
“Covid has created a crisis and in a crisis, the people expect Congress to act,” Sen. Romney said at the podium. “And this group has come together to propose action to respond to this crisis. We’ve got people unemployed, we’ve got businesses shutting down, we’ve got states and localities getting ready for layoffs.”
Romney, who called himself a “deficit hawk,” said during his remarks that the time to borrow money is during a crisis, addressing concerns from fellow Republican lawmakers over what another stimulus package would do to the growing deficit. The Republican senator from Utah noted that $560 billion of the relief proposal would come from repurposed funds from the CARES Act, requiring $348 billion in new money.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) said the group had not received any assurance from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) or McConnell that a vote would be scheduled before announcing the plan.
The announcement of the proposal came on the same day that a group of Democratic senators, including Sens. Warner and Tim Kaine of Virginia, sent a joint letter urging Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) to extend the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation programs.