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White House relief plan includes $600 checks: senator

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Democrats have shown little interest in Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin's $916 billion US economic stimulus proposal./AFP
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Dec 10, 2020 - 10:17 AM

WASHINGTON — A White House-backed proposal to provide more aid to the ailing US economy includes $600 in direct payments to Americans but has little support among Democrats, a prominent senator said Wednesday.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Tuesday unveiled the $916 billion proposal that represents the latest attempt to break a long-running deadlock between Republicans and Democrats in Washington on a new spending package to revive the coronavirus-wracked US economy.

Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent who votes with Democrats and is influential among the party’s left wing, on Wednesday rejected the stimulus check proposal was too small and called the plan “unacceptable.”

“What the Republicans are proposing is grossly unsatisfactory,” he said in an interview with MSNBC.

“That is unacceptable, and we cannot leave here unless we get $1,200 for every worker, and we get extended unemployment and we get adequate aid to states and cities. This country is facing a crisis, we have got to respond accordingly.”

Mnuchin said his plan includes “money for state and local governments and robust liability protections for businesses, schools and universities” and the Treasury Department has not  provided any additional details.

Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer seemed little moved by the idea, indicating they wanted to focus on a $908 billion bipartisan compromise put forward last week that is making its way through the legislature.

They released a statement saying it was “unacceptable” that the White House offer only includes $40 billion for unemployment insurance.

Congress in March passed the $2.2 trillion CARES Act that expanded the unemployment safety net and included one-time payments of at least $1,200, while also creating a program of loans and grants to keep small businesses from closing.

But most of those major program have lapsed in recent months, and the unemployment provisions supporting millions of jobless Americans are set to expire at the end December.

Mnuchin along with top Democratic and Republican lawmakers have for months been unable to agree on how much to spend in a follow-up package and what to spend it on.

Democrats had pressed for a nearly $3 trillion package but now considering compromises costing significantly less, at least to cover the interim before President-elect Joe Biden takes office in late January.

Breaking the deadlock is seen as a priority for lawmakers in the weeks before President Donald Trump hands power to Biden in and a new Congress is installed.

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