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Trump wants standalone bill for $1,200 stimulus checks
After shutting down negotiations over a new COVID-19 stimulus package, President Trump said he would pass a standalone bill for $1,200 stimulus checks.
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Millions of jobless Americans wait for urgently needed relief after another rescue package hit roadblocks this week in Washington, threatening to delay stimulus aid by at least a month as the economy grapples with historic job losses during the coronavirus recession.
Congress hasn’t approved additional coronavirus relief since March, when both chambers came to bipartisan compromises on a handful of bills that totaled more than $3 trillion, including one-time $1,200 checks to Americans and a $600 weekly unemployment boost. But most of that relief dried up this summer as Republicans and Democrats continue to spar over another round of aid.
Following a breakdown in talks earlier this week, optimism over more federal fiscal aid grew Friday, although some policymakers have signaled it may not come until after the election.
We at USA TODAY reached out to our audience and asked them what they wanted in a stimulus bill. About two-thirds of respondents said they wanted a second round of $1,200 direct payments, and roughly one-quarter of them said they needed additional supplemental unemployment aid.
The back-and-forth between politicians on both sides of the aisle has left some Americans fed up.
When Rebecca Espinoza graduated in May, she struggled to find employment for months in health care administration after the coronavirus pandemic battered the economy in the spring.
Espinoza, a mother of three who lives in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, went without any job prospects until just last week, when she was offered a position at the Department of Veterans Affairs as a health aid. But the job is temporary and will end in March. There is a chance her employment could be extended, but it is not guaranteed, she says.
“I’m very worried about not having long-term employment. I have a lot of student debt,” says Espinoza, 38, who added that her loan servicers were already calling her seeking payments. Her family, who have cut costs and been budgeting, has been living off her husband’s retirement income from the Army.
Espinoza would like to see Congress send Americans another round of direct payments and extend enhanced unemployment to help keep the jobless afloat.
“We constantly see our government bailing out corporations. It would be great if regular people could get this money,” says Espinoza, who added that the constant bickering between policymakers in Washington has made her angry in the past. “More cash payments would really help people.”
There’s no stimulus deal in sight: What does that mean for you?
Linda Jacobsen, a retiree and single mother, acknowledged that she’s in a fortunate financial position now, even without a college degree, because she consistently stashed money away for her nest egg. But Jacobsen added that she feels bad for other single mothers who are out of work and struggling to make ends meet during the pandemic.
“I know how awful it must be, especially for single mothers who aren’t in a position to handle their future,” says Jacobsen, 67, who lives in Evergreen, Colorado. “Americans are desperate right now. I know people who are in dire need for the $1,200 checks right away.”
The on-and-off-again talks for another stimulus bill continued again this week after months have passed since the extra $600 unemployment supplement expired in late July.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin worked toward a deal early in the week. But on Tuesday, President Donald Trump effectively killed discussions on a broader stimulus package until after the election.
Then Trump did an about-face Tuesday evening and urged Congress to approve piecemeal relief measures he would sign, including a new round of $1,200 stimulus checks. He also said that he would approve funding for hard-hit industries, including struggling airlines and small businesses.
On Friday, Trump said he wanted to “Go Big” on stimulus relief, with the White House set to offer Democrats a $1.8 trillion deal. It is about $200 billion more than the White House’s $1.6 trillion proposal last week. It is still smaller than the $2.2 trillion Democrats most recently offered and which Trump rejected on Tuesday.
Trump seemed to undercut his administration’s negotiation, telling Rush Limbaugh in an interview Friday afternoon, “I would like to see a bigger stimulus package frankly than either the Democrats or the Republicans are offering.”
Earlier Friday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said another stimulus package is “unlikely in the next three weeks.” Pelosi, meanwhile, said on MSNBC that she would negotiate more with Mnuchin as they worked through their differences.
To be sure, even if the White House and Democrats strike a deal, Congress still faces challenges on passing legislation through the Republican-held Senate, where members have expressed hesitancy at spending trillions of dollars on COVID-19 relief.
Republicans and Democrats disagree on funding amounts and policy in the bill, including provisions such as funding for state and local governments and the dollar amount for a federal unemployment benefit boost. Democrats want to extend the enhanced jobless aid at $600 per week through January, while Mnuchin offered a supplemental benefit of $400 per week.
“Politicians are acting like bratty children in a sandbox that won’t play together. It’s very immature,” says Jacobsen. “They don’t seem to care about how much people are suffering in this country. Where is the bipartisanship?”
Contributing: Nicholas Wu and John Fritze