Republican Senate pushes for $650 Billion COVID-19 relief plan

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WASHINGTON, D.C (ABC4) – Eleven Republican Senators introduce a $650 billion COVID-19 relief plan in hopes to substitute the $1.9 trillion budget reconciliation bill, Saturday.

The amendment, which was built on the COVID-19 relief plan that was unveiled last month by a group of Republican Senators, was not adopted by a vote of 48-51. 

On March 6, U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Mitt Romney (R-UT), Rob Portman (R-OH), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Todd Young (R-IN), Mike Rounds (R-SD), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Mike Crapo (R-ID) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) gathered together to create the proposal.

“Last year, Congress came together on a bipartisan basis to pass five COVID-19 relief bills totaling $4 trillion, and hundreds of billions of dollars of that aid is still being allocated.  Regrettably, the $1.9 trillion bill that was sent to us by the House is largely a partisan wish list crammed with provisions that have nothing to do with responding to the coronavirus, either from public health or economic perspective,” the Senators said in a joint statement. 

The new substitute amendment includes provisions to support healthy families and communities, grant immediate aid to individuals and small businesses, and to safely reopen schools and while also helping with child care.

“Our plan would have supported our overwhelmed health care system with $160 billion to bolster vaccination and testing programs as well as rural health care providers.  It would have supported struggling families by sending $1,400 stimulus checks to low- and middle-income Americans, extending unemployment assistance, expanding access to child care, and reopening classrooms.  And it would have supported small businesses by increasing funding for the PPP and EIDL programs that have saved millions of jobs across the country.  The emergency we are facing should not be an excuse for funding partisan priorities.  It’s unfortunate that the Administration and Democrats rejected this targeted, commonsense package that would have provided focused COVID-19 relief to the people who need it most.”

The substitute amendment included the following changes:

Healthy families and communities

  • Direct COVID-19 Pandemic Response: Provides nearly $160 billion to support vaccine distribution, expand testing, PPE, and rebuild and restock the Strategic National Stockpile. This also includes $35 billion for the Provider Relief Fund to assist health care providers and hospitals, with an $8.5 billion set-aside for rural hospitals.
  • Defense Production Act: Provides $5 billion for Title III of the Defense Production Act to help expand domestic production capacity of medical supplies and equipment.
  • Disaster Relief Fund: Provides $30 billion to replenish the Disaster Relief Fund, including $5 billion for PPE for first responders and health care providers, including small physician and dental practices.
  • Nutrition: Provides $12.4 billion to nutrition assistance programs. This includes additional funding for the WIC Program, Pandemic EBT, and SNAP, including extending increased SNAP benefits through September 30, 2021.
  • Behavioral Health Services: Provides $3.88 billion to strengthen activities related to mental health and substance abuse.  This includes $1.5 billion for the Community Mental Health Services Block Grant and $1.5 billion for the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant.

Immediate aid to individuals and small businesses

  • Unemployment: Extends federal unemployment programs through June and continues the $300 weekly supplement. Provides $2 billion to detect and prevent fraud, provide more equitable access, and ensure the timely payment of benefits. 
  • Economic Impact Payments: Provides an additional payment of $1,400 to adults in need and provides $500 for each of their dependents. These payments would go to single filers earning $40,000 or less with a complete phase-out by $50,000; for joint filers earning $80,000 or less together with a complete phase-out by $100,000; and heads of household earning $60,000 or less with a complete phase-out by $75,000. Payments would not be made to undocumented immigrants or prisoners.
  • Small Business: Provides $40 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program and extends the application deadline to June 30, 2021. Of this, $5 million is for audits and investigations. Also provides $10 billion for Economic Injury Disaster Loans.

Safely reopen schools and helping child care

  • Schools: Provides $19 billion to reopen K-12 schools and to keep them open. Funding will be available to school districts that provide in-person instructions to at least half of their students at least half of the time. Funding will also be available for activities that support the safe reopening of schools. Also provides $1 billion to support non-public schools with COVID-related costs.
  • Child care: Provides $20 billion to the Child Care and Development Block Grant program to provide immediate assistance to child care providers and to support child care for families, including for healthcare workers and first responders.

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