Sen. Mark Warner lays out bipartisan effort to pass COVID-19 relief package

U.S. and World

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The day after a bipartisan group of lawmakers unveiled plans to provide up to $908 billion in COVID-19 relief, Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) urged Congress not to play the role of the Grinch and agree to a compromise before heading home for the holidays.

The bipartisan coalition, which includes Warner and fellow Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.), Mitt Romney (R-Utah), Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.), introduced an initial proposal earlier this month for a $908 billion stimulus package as talks between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin stalled for months.

“We had been sitting here for six months since the House passed a covid bill and nothing happened,” Warner told 8News’ Jackie DeFusco in an interview Tuesday. “And now we’re literally 11 days away from people losing their unemployment checks, from people getting kicked out of their homes at the beginning of January, from small businesses that have run out of money. If we don’t step up, it would be what I call stupidity on steroids.”

Details of a new $748 billion proposal from the group on Monday did not include $160 billion in federal aid to state and local governments, funding in the first package that Democrats wanted to help states and localities with revenue shortfalls because of the pandemic. Discussions over providing that money in a separate bill are ongoing but will depend on whether Republicans get a liability provision included in the measure that protects businesses from litigation related to coronavirus protections.

The package introduced Monday does include funding for programs that have garnered widespread support throughout the group, including extending supplemental unemployment benefits of $300 per week for 16 weeks, $300 billion for an additional round of Paycheck Protection Program loans and small business assistance.

“Everybody is unanimously in agreement on the $748 billion and that alone will be the third largest bill in American history,” Warner said. “That will be unemployment, that will be small business, that’ll be rental assistance, that’ll be help for food banks, that’ll be help for broadband. This is targeted emergency relief.”

The Democratic senator added that he feels providing relief to state and local governments and liability protections are important and that a “reasonable settlement” can be agreed upon, but that he would vote to pass the $748 billion package even if the second bill fails to make it to the floor of Congress.

The $748 billion proposal also includes:

  • $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

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