House Democrats proposed a $3 trillion virus relief bill Tuesday, combining aid to state and local governments with direct cash payments, expanded unemployment insurance and food stamp spending as well as a list of progressive priorities like funds for voting by mail and the troubled U.S. Postal Service.
The bill comes after Congress has already spent $3 trillion on four bills in response to the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
“I can’t remember a point in our history where we shut down the economy of our country,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said Tuesday. “As a result we need to respond in unprecedented ways with unprecedented resources.”
While there is little chance of the aid package gaining Senate approval and President Donald Trump’s signature as written, passage in the Democratic-led House gives House Speaker Nancy Pelosi a marker to set down at the same time both parties are positioning themselves for congressional elections less than six months away.
The legislation, which is slated for a House vote on Friday, is the opening bid in negotiations with the Trump administration and Senate Republicans.
It may take until June before any new deal is struck. No formal negotiations have taken place since the last relief bill was passed, though Trump chief economic adviser Larry Kudlow has said he’s talking with lawmakers of both parties on priorities.
Trump said last week he’s in “no rush” to get another aid package, but last week’s jobs report that showed employers cut 20.5 million jobs in April, and statements from the president’s economic advisers that the unemployment rate will hit 20% or more, are certain to add urgency to talks. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday dismissed the bill as a “big laundry list of pet priorities” and indicated the GOP would ignore the Democratic proposal for now.
Among it’s key provisions, the bill would provide almost $1 trillion in aid for state and local governments as well as $1,200 cash payments to individuals and $1,200 for dependent children — up to $6,000 per household. It also would extend a $600 weekly increase to unemployment insurance into next January.
The bill also provides $200 billion to fund what it describes as “hazard pay” for essential workers who’ve had to risk exposure to the virus as they stay on the job while much of the rest of the country has been shut down.
Another $75 billion would be allocated for virus testing and contract tracing.
There are numerous tax provisions in the legislation.
The bill would greatly expand a tax credit included in the last virus relief bill that gives employers tax breaks for keeping workers on the payroll. The new version would give employers a credit worth up to $12,000 per employee per quarter, an increase of $5,000 per worker for the remainder of the year. The credit would be a more targeted way to help workers than Trump’s idea to cut payroll taxes, according to proponents.