House Democrats Reject Bipartisan COVID-19 Relief Bill Drafted by 'Problem Solvers Caucus'
Do you support a bipartisan deal on COVID-19 relief?
What’s the story?
- The bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus released a framework for $1.5 trillion in coronavirus aid on Wednesday in a bid to break the deadlock in negotiations between Democrats and Republicans over a potential relief bill ― but House Democratic leadership rejected the proposal. The Problem Solvers Caucus is a group of 50 House members that is evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans.
- Democratic committee chairs released a statement emphasizing that the bipartisan framework wouldn’t provide enough funding for their priorities, which read in part:
“While we appreciate every attempt at providing critical relief to American families, the Problem Solvers Caucus’ proposal falls short of what is needed to save lives and boost the economy.”
- House Democrats passed their $3.4 trillion HEROES Act in May, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has indicated she would accept a $2.2 trillion package, but the announcement from committee chairs signals that leadership isn’t willing to come down from that number at this time. Republicans proposed a $1 trillion relief package known as the HEALS Act as a counter to the HEROES Act, which Democrats rejected out of hand. That led them to try to pass a narrow, “targeted” package with a $500 billion price tag that Senate Democrats blocked on the floor.
- There is reason to think that the Problem Solvers’ framework will likely resemble what the next phase of COVID-19 relief would look like if a bipartisan deal is reached. Some Republicans have expressed a willingness to support a $1.3 trillion or $1.5 trillion package, and at least one Senate Democrat, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA), called for the Senate to bring the package up for a vote. That may be the likeliest (and only) path forward for the Problem Solvers framework given the opposition of House Democratic leaders.
What’s in the Problem Solvers framework?
- Dubbed the “March to Common Ground”, the Problem Solvers Caucus relief package framework would total $1.5 trillion to address healthcare, economic, educational, liability issues, and aid to states and localities.
- Healthcare: This portion of the bill would total $100 billion, including $30 billion for healthcare provider support, $25 billion for testing and contact tracing, and $45 billion to forgive Medicare loans made to providers.
- Economic Support: Direct support to individuals and families would cost $316 billion, including $1,200 stimulus checks plus $500 per child at a cost of $280 billion. Food aid programs would be enhanced by 15% through the spring, while student loan forbearance through the end of 2020, and rent stabilization would continue through January 2021. An additional $290 billion would be provided for small businesses and non-profits through another round of Paycheck Protection Program loans and employee retention tax credits.
- Unemployment Assistance: The framework would cost $120 billion, which would provide recipients a $450 per week enhancement during an 8-week transition program followed by up to $600 per week ― up to but not exceeding 100% of their previous wage.
- Education Assistance: This section would provide $100 billion for K-12 schools for virtual, hybrid, and/or in-person learning, plus $30 billion for higher education institutions, and $15 billion for childcare providers.
- Liability and Worker Protections: The framework would provide enhanced protections for entities which follow enhanced OSHA guidelines and provide for robust enforcement of those worker safety rules.
- State and Local Aid: A total of $500 billion would be provided. It would allow $130 billion in remaining CARES Act funding to be used for past state and local COVID-19 expenses; $130 billion in new money for future expenses through 2021; $120 billion in new money for documented local general revenue shortfalls through 2021; plus $250 billion in new money for documented state general revenue shortfalls through 2021.
- Miscellaneous: Agriculture and aquaculture producers would get $25 billion, the U.S. Postal Service $15 billion, while $12 billion would go to broadband hotspots in underserved communities and $400 million for election aid.
— Eric Revell
(Photo Credit: brucedetorres[at]gmail.com via Flickr / Public Domain)
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