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Senate Republicans unveil $1 trillion economic stimulus package to address coronavirus fallout

Senate Republicans on Thursday formally rolled out a $1...

Posted: Mar 19, 2020 10:28 PM
Updated: Mar 20, 2020 1:15 AM

Senate Republicans on Thursday formally rolled out a $1 trillion economic stimulus plan intended to deliver critical aid to US businesses and the American public.

It's a move that sets the stage for negotiations to begin in earnest between Republicans and Democrats in an effort to reach a bipartisan deal to help an economy hit hard by the rapid spread of the novel coronavirus.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called the plan 'a bold legislative proposal' in remarks on the Senate floor, saying that he was 'officially introducing the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.'

The Kentucky Republican described the major contours of the proposal by saying that it will deliver 'direct financial help for the American people,' as well as 'rapid relief for small businesses and their employees.' He said that the plan includes 'significant steps to stabilize our economy and protect jobs' and 'more support for the brave health care professionals and their patients who are fighting the coronavirus on the front lines.'

But in a sign that hard-fought negotiations are still to come, the Democratic leaders of the House and Senate released a brief statement Thursday night criticizing the plan.

'We are beginning to review Senator McConnell's proposal and on first reading, it is not at all pro-worker and instead puts corporations way ahead of workers,' House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, said in the statement.

Schumer had earlier expressed some criticism of the proposal after its introduction and the process by which Senate Republicans came up with it, saying that the plan had 'virtually no input from Democrats' and warning against corporate industry bailouts.

The $1 trillion emergency economic aid proposal comes in response to the coronavirus pandemic and would include direct payments to Americans under a certain income threshold, $200 billion in loans to airlines and distressed industry sectors and $300 billion in forgivable bridge loans for small businesses.

The proposal, a draft of which was obtained by CNN, underscores the scale of the economic crisis facing individuals and businesses across the country amid the accelerating pandemic and bolsters health care resources, student loans and aid, business tax provisions and temporary authority.

The proposal, however, is just an opening bid as the Senate attempts to address the coronavirus outbreak. It was drafted by Senate Republicans and the Trump administration, with no input from Democrats.

'I believe no one has seen the proposal, or I haven't seen .... the proposal,' Schumer said earlier Thursday. 'It had virtually no input from Democrats. But we will look at it and read it tonight.'

He added, however, 'from what I'm told it provides a bailout for a number of industries. Again, we have to put the workers first. We don't want these industries to go under, but we don't want the dollars that are put there to go to corporate executives or shareholders. They must go to the workers first.'

At the heart of the proposal is hundreds of billions of dollars directed toward 'recovery rebates' of up to $1,200 for individuals and $2,400 for couples beneath a certain income threshold.

The proposal also includes $300 billion for loans to small businesses, as well as private organizations. The program would be structured so businesses could take out loans from banks and lenders that would be guaranteed by the Small Business Administration. Those loans must be used, according to the proposal, to pay for salaries, mortgage payments, other debt obligations and payroll support including paid sick, medical and family leave, as well as health care benefits.

Now Republicans and Democrats will need to try to reach a bipartisan agreement to move a stimulus package forward as the virus continues to spread and take a major toll on public health and the economy.

Schumer said on Thursday that because Republicans did not involve Democrats from the start the way they had called for he was concerned that would 'prolong the length of time before we act.'

He said, however, that Senate Democrats 'look forward to working with them (Republicans) to come up with a bipartisan product as soon as we can as this crisis grows worse every day.'

Key Senate Republicans disagree with cash payments to Americans

Underscoring the challenge that lies ahead, Senate Republicans are not completely unified over what to include in the economic stimulus.

There was significant debate and disagreement in the Senate Republican Conference lunch Thursday over President Donald Trump's proposal to provide most Americans with $1,000-plus checks to boost spending and stimulate the economy, stalled because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Senior Republicans pushed back on the idea, arguing it would be more effective to use that money to support loans and grants to small businesses that keep their employees on the payroll and to boost funding for state unemployment systems.

Sen. Richard Shelby, the Alabama Republican who chairs the Appropriations Committee, said he didn't understand the logic of sending cash to people who have not lost their jobs.

'I personally think that if we're going to help people we should direct the cash payments maybe as a supplemental to unemployment, not to the people who are working every day, just a blank check to everybody in America making up to $75,000,' Shelby said. 'I don't see the logic of that.'

Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican of South Carolina and ally of Trump, argued the direct payments might be better used later, once the virus is defeated and a stimulus might jump-start the economy.

'You can't stimulate something that's padlocked. Once the padlock is off, which is the virus, then we'll talk about stimulating the economy,' he said. 'People need income stability.'

Graham explained why the loan program would be more effective.

'If you got a bar that's closed, bar owner goes in and applies for a loan, which will become a grant most likely. And you have to use the money to pay payroll. The people never go into the unemployment insurance system. They get a check from their employer and when this is over they go right back to work. That is a good idea for some. And those that won't work for go to unemployment insurance,' Graham said.

Sen. James Lankford, a Republican from Oklahoma, said the loan program would have a 'much bigger impact' than direct payments.

'I think that has the greatest bang for the buck to be able to keep people employed. A one-time check that comes to someone is not as significant as knowing my job is going to be there,' Lankford said.

Despite the disagreement over one of the pillars of Trump's $1 trillion economic stimulus program, the cash payments were part of a Senate Republican proposal released Thursday.

The measure calls for $1,200 for individuals with incomes up to $75,000, and up to an additional $500 per child.

Sen. Kevin Cramer, a Republican of North Dakota, said even though there is disagreement over direct payments, he thinks the idea has too much momentum to be stopped now.

'There's some disagreement on direct payment checks versus unemployment insurance, versus what a good lending program would look like,' he said. 'But I would say the momentum is with some form of direct payments, whether it's in the form of checks, direct deposit more likely.'

This story has been updated with a statement from Schumer and Pelosi late Thursday.

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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 134231

Reported Deaths: 2357
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson19676351
Mobile13373292
Montgomery8834184
Tuscaloosa8621118
Madison788178
Shelby597849
Lee589760
Baldwin547750
Marshall394343
Calhoun351544
Etowah349045
Morgan329228
Houston290321
Elmore266748
DeKalb241621
St. Clair232235
Walker231684
Talladega216629
Limestone210120
Cullman189920
Dallas179026
Franklin177129
Autauga176425
Russell17603
Lauderdale171333
Colbert164626
Blount161115
Escambia160824
Chilton158530
Jackson157511
Covington140127
Dale138644
Coffee13486
Pike119810
Chambers116442
Tallapoosa116085
Clarke109116
Marion96429
Butler91239
Barbour8827
Winston74412
Marengo72020
Pickens66214
Bibb65410
Lowndes65327
Randolph64713
Hale63528
Geneva6254
Lawrence62023
Cherokee60813
Bullock60414
Monroe5898
Clay5858
Washington55713
Perry5416
Crenshaw53732
Conecuh53511
Wilcox53111
Henry5055
Macon48018
Fayette4578
Sumter43819
Cleburne3805
Lamar3672
Choctaw34712
Greene30315
Coosa1713
Out of AL00
Unassigned00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 190891

Reported Deaths: 2374
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Shelby30755458
Davidson26474306
Hamilton944394
Knox937879
Rutherford929389
Williamson525236
Sumner481998
Wilson347645
Putnam331540
Montgomery307044
Unassigned29495
Bradley293417
Out of TN289627
Madison287764
Sevier262315
Blount251624
Maury236124
Washington229736
Robertson221035
Sullivan216433
Hamblen191426
Tipton181819
Gibson165823
Trousdale16577
Hardeman157026
Wayne14975
Dyer137014
Bedford134517
Dickson125715
Coffee123613
Cumberland120118
Weakley118919
Fayette118819
Henderson118124
Anderson117913
Loudon11726
Obion117110
Carter116828
Greene115644
Jefferson111914
McMinn111925
Warren10617
Macon105521
Lawrence104313
Monroe103618
Hardin103016
Lauderdale98316
Franklin9699
Haywood96921
Lake9192
Roane8954
Carroll88920
McNairy88318
Bledsoe8544
White8379
Rhea83412
Hawkins81218
Cheatham80710
Marshall7565
Cocke7469
Overton7456
Smith72311
Johnson7112
Chester63210
Henry6259
Lincoln6191
Giles60717
Hickman5858
DeKalb56614
Crockett53819
Marion5298
Decatur5207
Fentress5053
Campbell4464
Claiborne4425
Polk38810
Grainger3763
Union3591
Benton3369
Jackson3265
Morgan3173
Grundy2915
Cannon2860
Unicoi2861
Humphreys2513
Sequatchie2332
Clay2265
Meigs2263
Houston2203
Scott2142
Stewart2042
Lewis2011
Moore1751
Van Buren1660
Perry1500
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