Senate Republicans on Monday unveiled a coronavirus relief package that reduces the size of enhanced unemployment benefits — in the short term to an extra $200 per week, from the current $600.
Their proposals also include COVID-19 liability protections for businesses so they “can spend their next months actually reopening rather than fighting for their lives against frivolous lawsuits,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The protections would be in place as long as businesses made reasonable efforts to comply with public health guidelines and did not engage in “grossly negligent” behavior.
Entertainment industry groups have been pushing for a continuation of the unemployment benefits, which are set to expire this week.
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Under the GOP plan, the extra $200-per-week payments would run through September. The next month, it would be replaced with a formula to replace 70 percent of a worker’s lost wages. Republicans have criticized the current amount, arguing that it pays some unemployed individuals more than they were getting when they were in the workforce.
Other aspects of the GOP plan include another round of $1,200 “rebate” payments, with those who have incomes up to $75,000 eligible for the full amount. Other provisions include an enhanced hiring and payroll tax credit, and another to extend another round of loans to hard hit small businesses, or those that have seen a revenue loss of greater than 50%. Another program would extend longer term loans to certain seasonal businesses and those in low income areas.
The legislation, with a price tag of about $1 trillion, very quickly ran into opposition from Democrats, who see it as insufficient.
“Why are you quibbling over $600 when people need that to buy food, pay the rent?” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told MSNBC.
The House in May passed a coronavirus relief bill that would extend the $600-per-week additional unemployment benefits through next January. But that $3 trillion legislation was never taken up on the Senate side.
The GOP legislation also includes a number of other measures, including additional money for testing, hospitals and health care workers, as well as $105 billion for schools and high education.