After nearly two weeks of discussions, an agreement on COVID-19 relief funding is on the brink of collapse after little progress was made on several outstanding issues like expanded unemployment benefits, $1 trillion in aid to state and local governments, and liability protections.
“There’s a handful of very big issues that we are still very far apart” on a deal, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, the lead White House negotiator, told reporters on Thursday. He cited disagreements on aid to state and local governments, as well as the extra additional unemployment benefits of $600 per week.
President Donald Trump recently announced that his administration is considering issuing executive orders to address unemployment benefits, evictions, and student loans.
If the talks fail, it would put at risk $1,200 stimulus payments to most Americans, billions of dollars to help reopen schools, and billions in dollars in aid to state and local governments to help them avoid furloughing workers and cutting some services.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), in an interview with PBS, placed the blame on the Republican side.
“The point is we have a bill that meets the needs of the American people. It’s called the HEROES Act. They [Republicans] don’t even want to do state and local and when they do, it’s very meager and they want to revert money from before,” she said, referring to a $3 trillion package that was passed by House Democrats in May, according to The Associated Press.
Democrats again asserted that the relief package needs to be significant to deal with outstanding economic issues.
“We believe the patient needs a major operation while Republicans want to apply just a Band-Aid,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told reporters. “We won’t let them just pass the Band-Aid, go home and leave America bleeding.”
Previously, Pelosi said that she will not budge on the expanded unemployment insurance benefits, saying that the joblessness rate needs to decline first in order for them to expire. But Mnuchin said the two sides also still differ on providing aid to state and local governments.
“On things like state and local, this is obviously a big issue, we’re still very far apart on that. The President is not going to do a deal that has a massive amount of money to bail out state and local,” Mnuchin told CNN.
If no deal is met, according to Mnuchin, the president may act as soon as Friday.
“If we conclude tomorrow that there is not a compromise position on the major issues, the President has alternatives and executive orders,” he told the network.