Stimulus Check: White House Firm on Not Extending Unemployment Relief in Next Aid Package

The White House and Senate Republicans are not considering extending the weekly $600 federal unemployment benefit in the next coronavirus stimulus package. The benefit was included in the CARES Act, but it has already begun expiring. Instead, Republicans have proposed an unemployment benefit that would send Americans 70% of their wages, an idea House Speaker Nancy Pelosi opposed.

Republicans have turned against the federal unemployment benefit, arguing that it paid low-wage workers more than what they would have earned at their job. "We're not going to use taxpayer money to pay people more to stay home," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in Washington Saturday after meeting with lawmakers. He repeated that on Fox News Sunday, telling Chris Wallace, "I think workers and Americans understand the concept that you shouldn't be paid more to stay home than to work."

While on ABC News' This Week, President Donald Trump's Chief of Staff, Mark Meadows, added that the unemployment benefit will not be extended. "We are going to be prepared on Monday to provide unemployment insurance extension that would be 70 percent of whatever the wages you were [making] prior to being unemployed, that it would reimburse you for up to 70 percent of those wages," he explained. "Hopefully as a way to get people back on their feet."

Republicans will need some Democratic support in the House and Senate to get the next coronavirus stimulus package to Trump's desk, but Pelosi criticized the "70% wage replacement" idea, suggesting it would be too hard to put into practice. "They're resenting $600 for single moms to be able to put food on the table, for dads to maintain the dignity of keeping their families intact with unemployment insurance, with assistance for rent, for food?" Pelosi said on CBS News' Face The Nation. Pelosi said Republicans are responsible for the delay in another package, saying they are "in disarray, and that delay is causing suffering for American families."

Another point of contention between Republicans and Democrats is the liability protections for businesses Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has insisted must be included. This would protect businesses from lawsuits related to the coronavirus. Pelosi accused McConnell of focusing on businesses instead of the essential workers who are afraid of contracting the virus because they have to work.

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"We can move very quickly with the Democrats on these issues," Mnuchin told Fox News Sunday. "We've moved quickly before, and I see no reason that we can't move quickly again. And if there are issues that take longer, we'll deal with those as well."

Republicans are looking to keep the cost of the next package down to $1 trillion. The package was expected to be introduced last week, but divisions between the White House and Senators caused a delay. It is expected to include a second stimulus check sent directly to Americans, similar to the program in the CARES Act.