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February 8, 2021

MSCI: Next COVID-19 Relief Package Must Include Liability Protections

As lawmakers in Congress and President Joe Biden spent most of last week debating what should – or what should not – be in the next COVID-19 relief package, MSCI joined more than 600 other organizations to send a letter to federal policymakers urging them to provide a national baseline of liability protection during the national pandemic. These protections would prevent a wave of lawsuits from inhibiting our return to a robust economy and healthy citizenry.

President Biden already has proposed a $1.9 trillion spending bill that Democrats in Congress largely support. Liability protections are not in that legislation, however, but they are part of a package proposed last week by some Senate Republicans. That measure includes:

  • $160 billion in pandemic response funding, including protective equipment and more money for vaccine distribution;
  • $50 billion in aid for small businesses;
  • An extension of the $300 per week federal unemployment benefit through June 30, 2021;
  • A $1,000 direct payment to qualified Americans, with $500 for adult dependents and children;
  • $20 billion in additional funding for schools and $20 billion in child care funding;
  • $12 billion for nutrition assistance; and
  • $4 billion for behavioral health resources.

In a demonstration of his eagerness to work in a bipartisan manner, President Biden hosted a the group of Republican senators at the White House on February 1. While the meeting didn’t end with a deal, most participants called it “productive,” according to The Hill.

A day later, however, on a call with members of his own party, President Biden made it clear that he prefers that Congress pass a $1.9 trillion package despite concerns voiced by Republicans about how it would impact the federal deficit.

Congress, which is now controlled by the president’s party, made progress on that goal last week. On Wednesday, the U.S. House approved a budget measure that includes President Biden’s $1.9 trillion economic relief package. The Senate approved the budget measure last Friday on a 50-50 vote. Vice President Kamala Harris cast the tie-breaking vote.

The budget bill does not have the force of law, but it will allow the Senate to pass a COVID-19 package that provides up to $1.9 trillion in spending on a simple majority vote rather than the 60-vote threshold that is needed to avoid a legislative filibuster.