COVID-19 Relief Talks Gain New Life

After months of stalemate, a new framework for coronavirus relief developed by a bipartisan group of senators has support from Democratic leaders.

Long-stalled negotiations on a new COVID-19 stimulus package gained new life as Democratic leaders rallied behind a $908 billion framework developed by a bipartisan group of senators.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) said in a joint statement on December 2 that the senators’ framework outlined on Tuesday “should be used as the basis for immediate bipartisan, bicameral negotiations.”

“Of course, we and others will offer improvements, but the need to act is immediate and we believe that with good-faith negotiations we could come to an agreement,” Pelosi and Schumer said.

The nearly-trillion-dollar framework was introduced by a group of senators that included Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Susan Collins (R-ME), Angus King (I-ME), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Mitt Romney (R-UT), and Mark Warner (D-VA). The framework was also informed by discussions with members of the bipartisan House Problem Solvers Caucus.

While there is no legislative text as yet, the framework includes a $300-per-week boost in federal unemployment benefits through at least March; $160 billion in support to state and local governments; nearly $300 billion for small businesses, including another round of funding for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP); $82 billion for schools; $45 billion for transportation systems; and $25 billion for rental assistance, among other items.

With the renewed possibility that Congress will reach a compromise on COVID-19 emergency relief measures, ASAE and other association leaders have stepped up calls that lawmakers include an expansion of the PPP to include 501(c)(6) associations in the bill. Associations have to date been largely left out of relief measures created by Congress since March to assist small businesses and other industries gravely impacted by the pandemic. As part of ongoing efforts to secure essential relief, ASAE also recently joined the COVID Relief Now Coalition, a group of 300 major public and private-sector organizations focused on helping Congress pass pandemic relief legislation.

It’s not yet clear how Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) will respond to Democratic leaders’ offer to use the $908 billion package as a framework for renewed discussions. So far, McConnell has pushed a plan that hues closely to the roughly $500 billion proposal that has been rejected by Democrats as insufficient to meet the country’s needs. On December 3, McConnell took to the Senate floor and said, “It’s been heartening to see a few hopeful signs in the past few days.”

If an agreement can be reached, the measure could be added to a government funding bill that must pass before December 11 to avoid a government shutdown. If an omnibus spending bill is out of reach, Congress may look to pass a short-term funding patch and deal with a longer-term spending measure in the new year.

(Douglas Rissing/iStock/Getty Images)

Chris Vest, CAE

By Chris Vest, CAE

Chris Vest, CAE is vice president, corporate communications and public relations at ASAE. MORE

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