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October 26, 2020

Still No Agreement In U.S. On Another COVID Bill

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and other Trump administration officials continued negotiations with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) last week regarding another COVID-related relief bill, but there is still no final agreement.

The two sides did take additional steps to bridge their gaps, however.

On October 20, President Donald Trump said he would be willing to sign legislation that provides up to $1.9 trillion in spending. That pledge put the White House just $300 billion away from Democrats’ preferred $2.2 trillion price tag.

A couple of days later, Treasury Secretary Mnuchin and House Speaker Pelosi said they had made more progress toward a deal, and are close to one, but a bill, at this point, might not be passed until after Election Day. According to The Wall Street Journal, Larry Kudlow, a top White House economic adviser, confirmed that finalizing the terms of a relief package in Congress’ lame-duck session “could be a possibility.”

It still remains to be seen whether any bill negotiated by the Trump administration and House Democrats could make it through the Republican-controlled Senate, however, where Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has stood firmly against any proposal larger than $500 billion.

Indeed, last week Sen. McConnell brought up a half a trillion package for a vote on the Senate floor. It failed to make it through the Senate on October 21, though, when senators voted against a measure to end debate on the legislation. Sen. McConnell’s bill would have provided more funds for the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and would have allowed businesses to take a second PPP loan.

Click here to read a full summary of this portion of the measure.

The legislation also included liability limitations for COVID-related personal injury claims against businesses and protections from liability under labor and employment laws for businesses that help fight COVID; extended pandemic unemployment insurance benefits; appropriated $105 billion to help get students back to school and provide for the continued learning of all students in elementary and secondary education and higher education; and provided $16 billion for testing, contact tracing and surveillance in states.

Click here to read a full summary of these provisions.