The Center Square [By Dan McCaleb] –
A new round of federal stimulus funding remains on hold after Democrats in the U.S. Senate blocked Republicans efforts to pass $500 billion in relief.
In a procedural vote Thursday, the Senate voted 52-47 in favor, with all Democrats and Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky voting against. The measure needed 60 votes to advance.
The relief package would have provided unemployed workers with an additional $300 in weekly benefits through Dec. 27. It also would have provided a new round of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funding to small businesses to the tune of $258 billion, and $105 billion for schools and colleges.
The measure also would have granted businesses certain liability protections from lawsuits from employees and customers who contract the respiratory disease, something Democrats opposed.
Small Business Majority Founder and CEO John Arensmeyer criticized the defeat of the legislation, though he called it inadequate.
“What happened today on the Senate floor did nothing to give small businesses any confidence that they might receive the help they need to survive, and it emphasized the urgent need for lawmakers to come together on a bipartisan solution,” Arensmeyer said in a statement. “While the Republican plan included some important measures to help Main Street, such as extending PPP and allowing some businesses to take a second PPP loan, it was inadequate.”
The Democrat-led House passed its own $3 trillion stimulus bill in May, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said then it was “dead on arrival” because of its overall cost and spending measures that were included unrelated to the coronavirus pandemic.
When talks broke down in Congress for new stimulus funding in July, President Donald Trump signed an executive order that provided unemployed workers $300 in additional weekly benefits through the Department of Homeland Security, but that money is expected to soon run out. The federal unemployment benefits are in addition to state benefits.
The CARES Act, approved by Congress in March, provided unemployed workers and additional $600 in weekly benefits but expire in late July. Businesses and Republicans said the $600 in added benefits disincentivized workers from returning to their jobs.