Bipartisan discussions are set to begin Friday on Capitol Hill after Senate Republicans introduced a $1 trillion emergency economic aid proposal that includes direct cash payments to Americans.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called the plan “a bold legislative proposal” that will deliver “direct financial help for the American people” as well as “rapid relief for small businesses and their employees” as the country battles the coronavirus pandemic.
But the Democratic leaders of the House and Senate expressed concerns that the package would unduly favor businesses. “On first reading, it is not at all pro-worker and instead puts corporations way ahead of workers,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement.
The so-called Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act would mark the third phase of federal efforts to mitigate the economic impact of the coronavirus.
The centerpiece of the GOP proposal is the “recovery rebates” of up to $1,200 for individuals and $2,400 for couples beneath a certain income threshold. The bill also includes $200 billion in loans to airlines and distressed industry sectors and $300 billion in forgivable bridge loans for small businesses.
“Our proposal will immediately help American workers, families, and businesses,” McConnell said.
But instead of pouring money into direct payments, Democrats say the focus should be on expanding health care resources, beefing up unemployment benefits and freezing student loan payments.
“If there are going to be some of these corporate bailouts, we need to make sure workers and labor come first,” Schumer said.
As CNN reports, some Republicans are also pushing back on the direct payments idea, arguing it would be more effective to use that money to support loans and grants to small businesses that keep their employees on their payrolls.
“Just a blank check to everybody in America making up to $75,000. I don’t see the logic of that,” said Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.)
But Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D) said “the momentum is with some form of direct payments, whether it’s in the form of checks” or direct deposit.