WASHINGTON – Republican Senators are scrambling to come up with their version of the next COVID-19 relief plan Thursday as a weekly $600 unemployment bonus is set to expire.
Senator David Perdue (R-Ga.) says he wants the next round of funding to be targeted to those who need it.
“I hope that we get it done before the August break, because people need it out there,” Perdue said.
Congress passed the first COVID aid bill in March, but emergency unemployment benefits that have been lifelines for out-of-work Americans are about to expire at the end of the month.
The federal government has been providing an extra $600 per week, in addition to state unemployment benefits. Republicans and the president have criticized the emergency bonus as a disincentive to work.
With U.S. coronavirus infections climbing above 4 million Thursday, and the unemployment rate now over 11 percent, the expiration of the additional $2,400 per month would be a financial shock for many.
Alabama Democrat Sen. Doug Jones is pushing his Senate colleagues to take up the $3 trillion HEROES Act the House passed two months ago. The HEROES Act would extend 6 months of unemployment benefits, along with rental assistance and mortgage relief.
Senate Republicans want their own plan with a much lower price tag. They were expected to release the proposal Thursday morning, but then held back.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) criticized Republicans for waiting too long to take action.
“The Republican disarray and dithering has serious potentially deadly consequences for tens of millions of Americans,” Schumer said.
Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) rejected the Democrats’ characterization, saying, “I heard Sen. Schumer say that we’re in disarray, we’re not. What we’re trying to do is come up with a good, balanced strategy.”
The Republicans continue to work with the White House to craft a bill the president will support.