House to vote Thursday on stimulus package that includes $1,200 checks, unemployment benefits

The House is expected to vote Thursday on a new stimulus package that would give those out of work $600 a week in federal unemployment benefits, help floundering small businesses and put a $1,200 check in the hands of millions of Americans.

The bill is the latest attempt at a relief package that would give struggling Americans some help as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to slow an economy that was in record territory before the virus came to American shores.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin held a face-to-face meeting Wednesday to try to hammer out a deal on a COVID-19 package that would pass the House and the Senate.

It had been more than a month since the two had met in person to try to negotiate a deal to help Americans suffering economic hardships since the country shut down in March when the coronavirus pandemic was declared.

Pelosi had planned to call for a vote on the bill on Wednesday but postponed it to continue talks with Mnuchin and the White House on Thursday morning.

“We found areas where we are seeking further clarification,” Pelosi said Wednesday of her talks with Mnuchin.

Mnuchin, on Fox Business on Wednesday night, said he was raising the $1 trillion Republican package into “the neighborhood” of $1.5 trillion in order to come together for a deal.

The offer Mnuchin put forth is similar to the one proposed last month by a bipartisan group of lawmakers known as the Problem Solvers Caucus. That proposal was expected to cost around $1.5 trillion.

While a House vote may come Thursday, Republicans in the Senate are less optimistic a deal is in the works.

Pelosi told House members Wednesday that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s desire to include in the bill a liability shield for businesses and schools — to keep them from being sued over COVID-19 issues — was something she was against.

McConnell has said the two sides are “far apart,” adding that a bill that costs $2.2 trillion is “outlandish.”

Republicans offered a compromise bill last month that cut the cost of the $1 trillion Heals Act the Senate passed in August. The trimmed-down version of the bill would cost around $300 billion.

Democrats said they have pared down their bill by changing the timing of certain benefits and by cutting the money — for hazard pay to front line workers — out of the bill.

Mnuchin said that he spoke to President Donald Trump this week and that Trump agreed to come up to $1 trillion in spending for a new bill.

While Mnuchin and Pelosi agree on some areas — aid for airlines, small business loans and a second stimulus check — they have not been able to come to an agreement on money for liability protections or assistance for cities and states.

The Democrat’s bill, as it stands, now includes among other things, a $600-per-week unemployment benefit, a second round of $1,200 direct payments to millions of Americans, money for the Paycheck Protection Plan, $25 billion to prevent layoffs at airlines, a $436 billion aid package to cities and states, a $225 billion payment to colleges and universities and another round of subsidies to businesses under the Paycheck Protection Program.

The negotiations over the bill continue as up to 50,000 airline workers are scheduled to be furloughed starting Thursday. Disney announced this week that it will be laying off 28,000 mostly part-time employees. Also, Marathon Petroleum, the nation’s top refiner, announced layoffs of up to 2,050 employees.

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