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Bipartisan House Group Proposes $1.5 Trillion COVID-19 Relief Bill

  • Shortly after failure of “skinny” $500 billion relief legislation put forward by Republicans in Senate, a bipartisan House group offers a $1.5 trillion bill
  • Proposal includes renewal of Paycheck Protection Program, enhanced unemployment benefits, stimulus checks, and funds for state and local governments
  • Measure reflects frustration among more moderate members as partisan stalemate inhibits likelihood that new relief will be approved before Election Day

A bipartisan group in the House of Representatives, frustrated with a lack of progress on a new round of COVID-19 relief in recent months, has put forward a compromise bill it hopes can assist with negotiations. The $1.5 trillion measure exceeds recent Republican proposals and falls short of the $2 trillion minimum sought by Democratic leaders, but matches the top line the White House has signaled it may approve.

The proposal was created by the Problem Solvers Caucus, a group of 50 moderate House members evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans. It includes a revival of popular provisions that were first introduced in the CARES Act this spring, namely $1,200 stimulus checks for taxpayers and a revival of the Paycheck Protection Program to provide support for small businesses.

The bill also aims to strike a workable balance on issues that have proved more controversial due to policy differences or concerns over the size of the bill. These include increasing additional unemployment benefits of $450 a week for eight weeks followed by $600 a week for five weeks, $500 billion for state and local governments, and funding for election assistance and the U.S. Postal Service.

Frustrations over the failure to pass a new round of relief have become more evident, particularly among those who are likely to face tough re-election battles in November. Both Democrats and Republicans have advanced proposals for renewed COVID-19 relief, but have had trouble agreeing on a way to do so – especially as a rancorous election nears and the relief issue has become a way for the parties to try to put political pressure on each other.

The Problem Solvers Caucus bill includes automatic triggers to provide additional stimulus and unemployment funding if the economy has not recovered by January, potentially increasing the cost of the measure to around $2 trillion. However, the price tag could also come down by about $200 billion if the economy improves by next year.

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