Senate starts debate on Republican coronavirus relief bill

Washington

WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Now that Republican senators have unveiled their coronavirus relief bill, the battle is on.

The $1 trillion plan to help Americans get back on the job and in the classroom provides another round of direct payments, more money for small business loans, and liability protections for schools and businesses against pandemic-related lawsuits.

“These resources will prevent furloughs of thousands of employees,” said Sen. Richard Shelby, R-AL.

The Senate Appropriations chairman broke down the numbers, including $16 billion in new money to ramp up state testing efforts on top of $9 billion that hasn’t been spent yet.

“With a particular emphasis on schools, employers, childcare facilities and nursing homes,” Shelby said. 

The legislation also provides more than $100 billion to help schools and colleges reopen, sending most of it to those holding in-person classes.

“If you have to have more buses, if you have to hire more teachers, have to have more protective equipment, those schools need help paying for that,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-TN.

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions chairman also worked to include opportunities for graduates to continue to defer student loan payments.

“If you have no income, you have no monthly payment,” Alexander said.

However, Senate Democrats argue the bill hurts unemployed Americans by cutting the weekly benefit from $600 to $200.

“In the middle of pandemic, Senate Republicans and the White House want to give out of work Americans a 30-percent pay cut,” said Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY.

Schumer said while the bill does include bipartisan priorities like the direct payments, the current version doesn’t even have a Republican consensus.

“Weeks of infighting among Senate Republicans and the White House caused unnecessary and harmful delays,” he said.

Right now, a resolution isn’t expected for weeks.

Stay with News 2 for continuing coverage of the COVID-19 Pandemic.

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