With clock ticking, Congress on brink of COVID-19 relief deal


WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — With current COVID-19 relief programs scheduled to expire at the end of the year and Congress with only a couple of days left in session, the pressure is on for lawmakers to approve more aid — and they say they are close to doing it.

“We have made significant progress,” Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill, said on the Senate floor Thursday, hopeful that a deal could be reached by the end of the day.

For millions of Americans off the job because of coronavirus shutdowns, the stakes are high. The latest job report shows more than 850,000 filed for unemployment last week alone, an increase for the fourth consecutive week.

“(There are) millions of families out there that are struggling to put food on the table,” said Joseph Llobrera, a food assistant expert with the nonpartisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. “(They are) going to bed without enough to eat.”

“We’re very concerned,” agreed Doug Rice, a housing expert with the CBPP. “The latest census data shows that there’s 14 million adult renters who are not caught up on their rent.”

A $900 billion compromise bill on the table would extend eviction protections and food assistance and include money for schools and small businesses.

“We’re going to stay right here, right here, until we finish,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., promised. “(Americans) need action fast.”

Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., said he was glad another round of direct stimulus was now included in the deal, calling the move “major progress,” but said he thought the proposed $600 benefits weren’t enough.

“I think the levels need to be $1,200 bucks for individuals and $500 for kids,” he said.

Lawmakers are expected to work through the weekend to get to a deal.

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