Jessica Menton
COVID-19 relief deal: No stimulus check, but extra $300 in jobless aidCongress is rushing to pass a proposed COVID-19 relief bill. Here’s what is in the package and what it means for you.Congress is rushing to pass a proposed COVID-19 relief bill as millions of Americans face losing their jobless benefits at the end of the month.Lawmakers in Washington have been deadlocked over another stimulus package for months. Last week, however, key lawmakers appeared to make concessions in hopes a bill could pass before both chambers leave for the holidays.Leaders in the House and Senate have restarted discussions and say the best chance in passing any relief is by adding it to the annual spending bill. But that would have to happen quickly because the House is scheduled to leave town at the end of the week. A potential deal is coming down to the wire as 12 million Americans are set to lose their unemployment benefits the day after Christmas. Eviction moratoriums for renters and protections for student borrowers are also set to expire, as well as a federal program for paid family leave.Save better, send better: Money tips and advice delivered right to your inbox. Sign up hereOn Tuesday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin pitched a $916 billion proposal to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, slightly more than a package that a bipartisan group of lawmakers delivered last week.Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer called it “progress,” but added that it “must not be allowed to obstruct the bipartisan Congressional talks that are underway.” They rejected part of the White House proposal that included a reduction in funding for unemployment benefits from $180 billion to $40 billion, calling it “unacceptable.”Mnuchin’s proposal comes after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell earlier Tuesday said he would be willing to leave out liability protections for businesses sought by Republicans if Democrats hold off on their push for increased state and local funding. But top Democratic leaders rejected that approach.’It’s a big scary mess’: 12 million Americans to lose jobless aid after Christmas if Congress fails to actUnemployment: As COVID-19 persists, more Americans are unemployed beyond 6 months. Does that carry a stigma even in a pandemic?Last week, a bipartisan group of lawmakers released a $908 billion aid proposal, which attracted the support of leading Democrats like Pelosi and some Republicans. It would provide temporary unemployment relief, along with aid for businesses and state and local governments.  McConnell has proposed a separate, smaller $500 billion deal that focuses on helping businesses stay afloat while limiting their legal exposure to coronavirus-related lawsuits. With a Dec. 11 government shutdown deadline looming, Congress is likely to vote on a one-week stopgap measure this week to fund the federal government to give lawmakers more time to strike a deal on emergency stimulus legislation. On Wednesday, the House plans to vote on the short-term measure to keep the government running through Dec. 18. Here’s what the potential stimulus bill means for you:Will you get another stimulus check? Mnuchin didn’t mention stimulus checks in his statement Tuesday, but the proposal includes $600 direct payments for individuals, plus an additional $600 per child, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told Bloomberg in an interview. That would be half the payment delivered by the March pandemic relief bill. It would include $1,200 for couples.The bipartisan package and McConnell’s proposal, meanwhile, were both expected to leave out another round of $1,200 stimulus checks. Democrats, some Republicans and the Trump administration back another stimulus check.Democratic Sen. Bernie Sanders and others have said that they could oppose the measure if there are no stimulus checks. Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the second-ranking Democrat, indicated that excluding the checks while assuring small-business aid and renters’ assistance was the only way to reach agreement with Republicans who are putting firm limits on the bill’s final price tag.The White House is pushing Senate Republicans to include $600 stimulus checks in the next relief package, according to The Washington Post. On Sunday, lawmakers involved in the negotiations said the direct payments would have to wait until after Biden is inaugurated on Jan. 20. At that time, Biden will face a new Congress as vaccines are being distributed, with a narrowed Democratic majority in the House and a closely divided Senate potentially split 50-50 if Democrats are able to prevail in two runoff elections in Georgia on Jan. 5.Will it extend unemployment benefits? There are two critical unemployment programs that are set to expire on Dec. 26: the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which provides aid to self-employed, temporary workers and gig workers, and the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program, which provides an additional 13 weeks of benefits beyond the typical 26 weeks that states provide to jobless workers. The White House proposal didn’t contain any extra federal unemployment benefits, according to The Washington Post. It would extend PUA and PEUC, Bloomberg reported, though it’s unclear how long those programs would be extended under the plan. The stimulus checks would be in place of the $300-per-week temporary supplementary benefits included in the bipartisan proposal, Bloomberg said. The bipartisan proposal is expected to include about $300 per week in bonus federal unemployment payments for roughly four months, providing relief just as emergency aid payments at regular benefit levels are set to expire at year’s end. That would be a lower amount than the $600 per week that jobless Americans had received under the CARES Act until late July. The plan is also expected to extend base benefits through March.It includes $180 billion in aid for unemployed workers, enough aid to provide at least 13 weeks of additional benefits to PUA and PEUC recipients, according to Andrew Stettner, a senior fellow with the Century Foundation, a nonprofit think tank.Lawmakers have discussed making the $300 unemployment supplement retroactive to Dec. 1.In a separate proposal, McConnell has suggested a three-month extension of benefits. In other words, his plan would extend PUA and PEUC until Jan. 31, and then phase out jobless aid over the following two months. What else is in the package? The White House proposal includes a renewal of aid for small businesses.The bipartisan agreement, meanwhile, includes funding for state and local governments, along with a temporary moratorium on some COVID-19-related lawsuits against companies.The measure also includes funding for small businesses, schools, health care, transit authorities and student loans.It also includes help with coronavirus testing and tracing and vaccine distribution.McConnell’s plan includes provisions for education, aid for small businesses and pandemic-related liability protections for businesses.Contributing: Nicholas Wu and Christal Hayes; The Associated Press

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