Friday, 07 August, 2020

Deep Washington divide on coronavirus aid as jobless benefit to expire

President Donald Trump Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows talk before Trump speaks with reporters on the South Lawn of the White House Wednesday Millions will lose $600-a-week unemployment boost as White House and Democrats fail to make deal
Ginger Lawrence | 02 August, 2020, 00:41

Trump appears anxious about the expiration of the $600 unemployment benefit boost as well as an expiring federal eviction moratorium on millions of rental units, potentially sending households into devastating turmoil.

"I'm not very optimistic that we will have any kind of an agreement on a comprehensive bill in the near future", said White House chief of staff Mark Meadows.

During eleventh-hour negotiations, Senate Republicans offered a few short-term options, including one that would have extended the benefits another week.

Those four offers have been "rejected", he said, adding that he's "disappointed" Democrats are playing politics.

"They distrust American workers", Pelosi said.

Trump is eager for another round of relief, and it's also a priority for GOP allies like McConnell, as well as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer.

Said Mnuchin: "We made a proposal for a short-term deal".

Republicans argue that the $600 weekly unemployment supplement from the federal government on top of state unemployment benefits ends up paying many workers more to stay home than they would have earned on the job.

A $600 (£459) jobless benefit paid to tens of millions of unemployed Americans expired overnight after Republicans and Democrats failed to reach a deal on its extension. Pelosi rejected it, saying the issue needs to be addressed as part of a far more sweeping bill that would deliver aid to state and local governments, help for the poor and funding for schools and colleges to address the pandemic.

"This was the longest meeting we had and it was more productive than the other meetings", Schumer said.

Ghislaine Maxwell documents are released, including Jeffrey Epstein emails
FILE - This March 28, 2017, file photo, provided by the New York State Sex Offender Registry shows Jeffrey Epstein. Epstein was found hanged in his cell in August past year while awaiting trial for sex trafficking charges.

On Thursday, Senate Republicans tried, without success, to pass a Bill reducing the jobless benefit to US$200 per week.

As federal pandemic unemployment benefits officially expire on Friday, Congress and the Trump administration are no closer to a deal that would salvage any portion of a $600-per-week check that, as of last weekend, would affect some 30 million Americans.

'They won't engage. Period, ' McConnell said Thursday as he opened the Senate.

President Donald Trump, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows talk before Trump speaks with reporters on the South Lawn of the White House, Wednesday, July 29, 2020, in Washington.

On Friday, Trump took to Twitter to explicitly endorse extending the $600 payment and to criticize top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer.

Friday was the deadline for an agreement on the coronavirus relief, which tops up state benefits that are mostly far below $600.

Both sides say the talks have not produced much progress, but they could be nearing a critical phase over the weekend and into next week. Democrats hold a strong negotiating hand, with Republicans badly divided over their own proposal.

Republicans controlling the Senate have kept the relief measure on "pause" in a strategy aimed at reducing its price tag. Meadows played a role in killing an increase in food aid during talks on the $2 trillion relief bill in March. Republicans added $20 billion for agribusinesses but nothing for greater food stamp benefits. Debbie Stabenow of MI, the top Democrat on the Senate Agriculture Committee.

"A$3 one-week extension is good if you have a bill, and you're working it out, the details, the writing of it, legislative counsel, Congressional Budget Office, Rules Committee".