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Stimulus checks aside, little agreement in Congress over new stimulus plan

Jim Spencer, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON -- As time expires on elements of the first coronavirus relief package, the triple threat of mass evictions, lost unemployment benefits and cratering gross domestic product has yet to bring the U.S. Senate and House and the White House together on a new economic stimulus plan.

The House passed a $3.4 trillion relief plan, the HEROES Act, in May. This week, the Senate offered a $1.1 trillion plan, the HEALS Act. With an August recess set to begin Aug. 8, both chambers of Congress are under pressure to reach an agreement over starkly different approaches to rescue the U.S. economy from coronavirus ruin.

Republicans want to cut $600 weekly federal supplements to unemployment payments to $200 per week because they say the higher amount discourages people from trying to find jobs.

Democrats want money for COVID-19 testing and contact tracing and other state and local aid that the White House and Republicans balk at.

Republicans want to shield businesses from COVID-related lawsuits. Democrats want workers and consumers protected.

The only thing that looks very likely is that Americans will get a second stimulus check of at least $1,200 if they make less than $75,000. They may also get some additional money depending on how many dependents they have. Republicans want to stick with $500 per dependent. Democrats want to raise dependent supplements to $1,200 per dependent and expand the number of dependents who are eligible.

 

Minnesota's federal delegation offers a representative example of the national partisan fight.

"The provisions providing an extra $600 per week in unemployment benefits needs to be revised so people are incentivized to go back to work," Republican Rep. Jim Hagedorn said.

Republican Rep. Pete Stauber said the additional $600 per week the first stimulus package offered left some recipients getting more in unemployment pay than they made at the jobs they lost.

Democratic Rep. Collin Peterson, who voted for the House relief bill, broke ranks with his party on the issue. "If the unemployment benefits are extended for those who are unable to get back to work, it shouldn't be for more than people were making while working."

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