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Sen. McConnell Sends Mixed Signals on $600 Jobless Payments

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While Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., signaled Tuesday that he’d be willing to support renewing $600 weekly unemployment benefits if President Donald Trump went along, his comments on the Senate floor Wednesday morning seemed to indicate otherwise.

Noting that a “deal is far off,” McConnell said on the Senate floor Wednesday morning that Democrats are hung up on “bad policy,” including extending the $600 weekly unemployment benefit.

“The Democratic position has been that these millions of laid-off people should get nothing unless they get a higher salary than the people who are still working,” McConnell said.

“This isn’t just bad economics; if you’re trying to reopen a country, it’s also just simply unfair in the simplest terms. Republicans want to keep providing some federal supplemental unemployment; we just don’t think it’s remotely fair for the federal government to tax essential workers who kept working every day so that Uncle Sam can pay their neighbors a higher salary to stay home.”

Outside of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., McConnell argued, “even Democrats concede it’s a bit upside down to pay people more not to work.”

McConnell noted that House Democratic Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said last week that “It’s not just $600 or bust.”

Said McConnell: “Let’s bear in mind that even $200 would be eight times what Democrats put in place with unified controls with the government during the last crisis in 2009. It’s unthinkable they will hold every bit of relief hostage unless we land back at $600 and pay workers a bonus.”

Schumer said Wednesday on the Senate floor following McConnell’s remarks that he and Pelosi “are making progress with the White House, but we remain far apart on a large number of issues.”

The fundamental disagreement among the parties, he stated, “is the scope and severity of the problem … We need our partners in the White House to go further on a number of issues.”

One example, he said, is that the administration has “put zero into their proposal on state and local aid.”

On unemployment benefits, “a few Senate republicans have belatedly accepted the view that we should extend the enhanced unemployment benefit at $600 for an extended period of time, as Democrats have proposed and voted for in the House” with the HEROES Act.

“Of course many … most Senate Republicans object to that. But at least a few have come around. At the moment, however, the White House is not there,” Schumer said. “And we are not going to strike a deal unless we extend the unemployment benefits, which have kept nearly 12 million Americans out of poverty.”

Congress will likely not leave for summer break Friday as they “aim for passage of a stimulus bill next week,” said Greg Valliere, chief U.S. policy strategist for AGF Investments.

PPP Loans 

Meanwhile, the deadline to apply for a Paycheck Protection Program Loan expires on Aug. 8. The original deadline was June 30.

As of mid-July, the PPP contained $130 billion in available funds.

The GOP’s HEALS Act includes a Paycheck Protection Program Second Draw Loans option via the Continuing Small Business Recovery and Paycheck Protection Program Act.

But the prospects of expanding the PPP look “increasingly dismal” as evidence of fraud emerges, according to Neil V. Getnick, managing partner of Getnick & Getnick, a law firm specializing in antifraud litigation.

“Whatever differences of opinion may exist, hopefully providing for robust oversight will achieve bi-partisan support,” he said in an email.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in mid-July that any new stimulus bill should include extending the PPP, and that new loans should go to businesses facing “significant revenue declines.”

Treasury and the Small Business Administration, Mnuchin said, will also consider forgiveness for small loans, but didn’t indicate a size.

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