Senator Mark Warner (D-Virginia) is confident that the Senate will soon pass the two-part COVID-19 relief package he helped develop. In a Thursday telephone press conference, Warner described key provisions of the plan and addressed controversy over a stimulus check added to the package while also limiting provisions to extend federal unemployment benefits past Christmas.
Warner described a give-and-take compromise that has shifted some of the provisions of the bills.
“It appears that our deal, while still in that $900 billion range, will include direct payments of close to $600 per person for adults and every child. Unfortunately, the price of that is to take away some of the expanded unemployment benefits,” Warner said.
He said the expanded unemployment benefits will probably last for only ten weeks instead of 16.
“I think that’s a mistake morally, in terms of taking away these additional benefits from people who are hurting the worst,” Warner said.
He said that sending out stimulus checks is less targeted economically because more-well-off families often save most of the money instead of spending it, which boosts the economy. Warner would have preferred using that money to extend unemployment, helping lower-income individuals who would spend more of the money.
“That will not preclude me, though, from voting for this bill,” Warner said.
Warner said that although caucus leaders from both parties had failed to take the lead in introducing another relief package, the bipartisan team of legislators is proof that Congress isn’t completely broken.
“I think the fact that a group of senators, bipartisan, said, ‘To heck with the politics, to heck with the posturing. Let’s try to provide emergency, targeted relief for those Americans most in need,’ is a sign that Congress may be getting its act together,” Warner said.
He said that the bill has tighter restrictions for the paycheck protection plan (PPP). In the spring 2020 relief CARES Act, large businesses exploited the program. Warner said the new PPP would apply to businesses who could demonstrate that they had lost 30 percent of their revenue, and had 300 employees or less, and would be easier to access for small minority business owners who might not have normal banking processes.
Congressman Morgan Griffith (R-VA-09) was cautiously optimistic about the bills. He said in a statement, “I have not seen any legislative text from the bipartisan Senate group working on COVID relief. Based on their announcement of the deal’s framework, I support some of its components.”
Griffith added, “However, for now the action on this deal remains in the Senate, and it may still change before it arrives in the House of Representatives. I will have to read the final product that comes over to the House before I can decide whether to support the entire package.”
Congressman Ben Cline (R-VA-06) said in a statement, “I am anxiously awaiting the final text of the COVID relief and Omnibus spending bill being negotiated by Congressional leaders and the White House.”
Like Griffith, Cline is concerned that House leaders will present a large bill at the last minute.
Cline said, “I have consistently advocated for a targeted bill that includes assistance for small businesses and help for individuals and families truly in need. However, I am concerned that Speaker Pelosi has once again decided to rush through a mammoth spending package with little time to review it. I remain hopeful that a bipartisan agreement will make its way to the House Floor for approval and resources can begin to flow quickly to those hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
With just a week until Christmas, Congress needs to move fast.
Warner said, “If Congress doesn’t act, Congress will become the ultimate Grinch in terms of the holiday season, because literally millions of Americans are poised to lose unemployment the day after Christmas.”
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