WASHINGTON – Today, after almost two weeks of bipartisan framework negotiations, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and a group of Democratic and Republican colleagues unveiled bipartisan and bicameral emergency COVID-19 relief legislation to provide urgent relief to struggling American students, families, businesses, workers and health care providers. The release of bipartisan legislative text offers a path forward for congressional action on bipartisan COVID-19 relief after nine months of stalled negotiations between Democrats in the House and Republicans in the Senate and White House.
The Bipartisan COVID-19 Emergency Relief Act of 2020 released today is the result of weeks of negotiations spearheaded by Sen. Warner along with Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Angus King (I-ME), Mitt Romney (R-UT), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Rob Portman (R-OH) and Dick Durbin (D-IL).
“A dozen Senators usually can’t agree on a lunch order, let alone almost a trillion dollars in federal spending – so the fact that we’re standing here today with a bipartisan bill is evidence of the urgency,” said U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA). “I will be the first to admit that this deal is imperfect. But these challenges are simply too urgent to allow politics to interfere. With unemployment and other benefits scheduled to run out just before Christmas, the American people cannot afford for us to wait. After several weeks of work, I hope that this bipartisan bill moves us closer to providing real relief to the American people without further delay.”
The Bipartisan COVID-19 Emergency Relief Act of 2020 would provide $748 billion in emergency assistance for the next four months, including:
· Extension of all unemployment assistance for 16 weeks, with supplemental $300 per week
· $300B for another round of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) forgivable loans and other small business assistance
· $13B for emergency food assistance, including SNAP benefits and funding for food banks
· $13B to provide funding to address COVID-related impacts on farmers, ranchers, growers, and fisheries
· $25B for emergency rental assistance and extension of nationwide eviction moratorium through January 31, 2021
· Extension of student loan forbearance through April 1, 2021
· $35B for healthcare providers
· $16B for testing, tracing and vaccine development and distribution
· $12B in support for community development financial institutions (CDFIs) and minority depository institutions (MDIs) to help low-income and minority communities withstand the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and respond to this unprecedented economic downturn
· $5B in emergency funding for substance abuse prevention and treatment and mental health
· $82B in education funding, including $54 billion for K-12 schools, $20 billion for higher education, and $7.5 billion for the Governor's Fund
· $10B to support child care providers struggling due to the COVID-19 pandemic
· $10B for broadband, including $6B for state broadband connectivity and deployment and $3B for educational connectivity and distance learning
· $45B in emergency funding for airlines, airports, buses, Amtrak, and public transit
In addition to the $748 billion contained in the Bipartisan COVID-19 Emergency Relief Act, lawmakers today unveiled a discussion draft of separate legislation providing $160 billion to help states and localities facing record revenue shortfalls due to the pandemic. In order to allow that legislation to reach the floor, Republicans have demanded that any state and local funding be paired with some sort of liability shield to protect businesses from lawsuits related to COVID-19 protections. In today’s press conference, Sen. Warner encouraged his colleagues to continue working on a compromise that would provide funding to state and local governments to prevent mass layoffs of teachers, first responders and sanitation workers during a pandemic.
It will be up to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who controls the Senate floor schedule, to determine if and when the bipartisan relief package might see a vote in the Senate.