WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Tom Reed, members of the House Problem Solvers Caucus and supporting members of the Senate detailed a bipartisan $908 billion coronavirus relief package on Tuesday.
The Problem Solvers, of which Reed is co-chair, and a bipartisan group of senators announced a four-month bipartisan, bicameral COVID-19 emergency relief framework meant to help American students, families, small businesses, workers and health care providers during the crisis.
The caucus, which includes 25 Democrats and 25 Republicans, helped develop the package, which does not include a second round of $1,200 stimulus checks.
“For far too long, working families, small businesses, local governments, critical health care providers and school districts across America have been left wondering when Washington would stop the partisan bickering and pass a comprehensive stimulus package,” Reed, R-Corning, said.
The congressman, re-elected last month to his sixth term, said the new proposed package addresses critical needs “and best positions the country for an effective rollout of a COVID-19 vaccine. It’s time to come together as proud Americans and get the job done.”
Talks at the Capitol on a new stimulus package have been at a standstill for months, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., each accusing the other of standing in the way of progress.
The senators backing the package include Republicans Susan Collins of Maine, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Mitt Romney of Utah, along with Democrats Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Mark Warner of Virginia and Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan, both of New Hampshire. Sen. Angus King, an independent from Maine, is also on board.
The framework allocates $908 billion in total aid, including both new funding and the reallocation of previously appropriated CARES Act funding. The framework targets resources to the following key categories:
• State, local and tribal governments, $160 billion
• Additional unemployment insurance, $180 billion
• Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), including restaurants, stages and deductibility, $288 billion
• CDFI/MDI Community Lender Support, $12 billion
• Transportation (airlines, airports, buses, transit and Amtrak), $45 billion
• Vaccine development and distribution as well as testing and tracing, $16 billion
• Healthcare Provider Relief Fund, $35 billion
• Education funding, $82 billion
• Student loan assistance, $4 billion
• Housing assistance for renters, $25 billion
• Nutrition and agriculture aid, $26 billion
• U.S. Postal Service, $10 billion
• Child care aid, $10 billion
• Dedicated broadband funding, $10 billion
• Opioid addiction treatment funding, $5 billion
Meanwhile, McConnell said Tuesday he’s revising his scaled-back COVID-19 relief bill with the goal of passing a significant downpayment during the lame-duck session and then revisiting the topic next year.
The Associated Press reported the McConnell made the announcement after President-elect Joe Biden called upon lawmakers to follow a similar path. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi resumed talks with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin about a year-end spending package that could include COVID relief provisions.
“It’s not a time for political brinkmanship,” Manchin, the West Virginia senator, said. “Emergency relief is needed now more than ever before. The people need to know that we are not going to leave until we get something accomplished.”
AP reported that Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., a member of the GOP leadership, gave a tentative thumbs up to the bipartisan idea, though he said time is running out and working against it.
“I think $900 billion would do a lot more good right now than $2 trillion will do in March,” Blunt said. “This is an important time to step up if we can.”