WASHINGTON — A second round of stimulus checks will likely be included in the next coronavirus relief package, with the idea getting the green light from both Republicans and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, one Senate source told The Post.
It’s unclear if the payments will match the $1,200 sum paid to most Americans as part of a $2 trillion economic bailout in March but the measure is one that has received rare bipartisan approval from Democrats and Republicans, as well as the Trump administration.
However, expanded unemployment benefits could be scrapped as soon as the end of the month as the Trump administration and members of the Republican caucus push Americans to return to work and argue the $600-a-week bonus is a disincentive from doing so.
Senators will return from the break next Monday to begin hammering out the details of a fourth congressional relief package as the pandemic continues to pummel the US economy and unemployment hovers around a historic 11 percent.
Democrats are pushing the generous $3 trillion HEROES Act the House narrowly passed in May which includes another round of stimulus checks up to $1,200, a $200 billion “heroes fund” giving hazard pay to medical workers and a $175 billion bailout for rent and mortgage aid.
Additional items include a boost in food stamps payments expected to cost $10 billion, a $25 billion bailout for the Postal Service, $3.6 billion for state elections offices and $5.5 billion for expanding high-speed internet to libraries and homes.
But the measure is considered dead-on-arrival in the Senate as McConnell and the GOP fight to keep the next emergency bailout to $1 trillion.
“Senate Republicans are looking to keep it around $1 trillion. They do not want a $3 trillion blowout like the one Nancy Pelosi has proposed,” the Senate source said.
In an interview Monday, McConnell said any new legislation would concentrate on creating jobs, funding schools so they can reopen, and creating liability protection for businesses related to the coronavirus — a measure which is understood to be a non-negotiable for the Kentucky Republican.
Any relief legislation would have to contain “liability protection for everyone related to the coronavirus,” he said, referring to doctors, schools and hospitals. The powerful senator is also considering allocating more money for vaccine development.
While GOP lawmakers are supportive of basic unemployment protection, both McConnell and the administration have signaled that they do not want to extend the $600-per-week federal boost in unemployment benefits that are due to expire on July 25 and which 30 million Americans currently rely on.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin last week said the administration supported extending the measure but was not comfortable with benefits being “more than 100 percent” of a worker’s pay.
Mnuchin, who negotiated the last $2.2 trillion bailout with House Speaker Pelosi, said it was a “priority” that the rescue package pass by the end of the month as coronavirus infections continue to reach record levels across the country.
He signaled President Trump was also in favor of more stimulus checks, telling CNBC: “We do support another round of economic impact payments.”
The pandemic has sidelined more than 30 percent of the nation’s workforce while infecting 3.43 million people and killing 138,000 in the US.
With Steven Nelson
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