Virginia’s U.S. senators are pushing back on Republicans’ proposal for the latest round of coronavirus relief funding.
Democratic Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner say the HEALS Act, unveiled Monday by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., falls short of what’s needed to respond to COVID-19’s continued spread and its economic fallout. The bill is formally known as the Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection and Schools Act, and includes an additional $1,200 stimulus check for people making up to $75,000, extends the Paycheck Protection Program, and gives liability protection from coronavirus-related lawsuits to businesses and schools, among others.
“Instead of taking urgently needed steps to address these problems, the White House and Senate Republican leaders have put forward a bill that fails to match the scale of the crisis or the needs of the American people,” Kaine and Warner said in a joint statement.
They added: “Instead, their proposal focuses on liability protections for businesses, as though that is our country’s most urgent challenge right now, and bizarrely includes money for a new FBI building in Washington, D.C., that has no connection to the current crisis and which the FBI neither wants or needs, having already spent millions planning for a new headquarters building in Virginia or Maryland.”
Most notably, the bill does not continue giving unemployed workers an extra $600 per week, a key benefit of the initial COVID-19 relief legislation passed in March. Instead, the bill would allow for a $200 flat weekly benefit that’s in addition to state unemployment benefits until state governments can calculate a benefit of 70% of a worker’s previous wages.
Kaine and Warner said they’ll be “strongly advocating for a bill that funds critical priorities like healthcare and testing, rental and mortgage assistance, broadband access, child care, K-12 and higher education, job training, election security, hunger assistance, and help for communities of color that have been disproportionately hard-hit by the effects of COVID-19.”
“The American people simply cannot afford for the Senate to waste any more time in addressing these urgent crises, and we are eager to work with anyone, Republican or Democrat, who is ready to do something about these serious challenges,” they said.
It’s unclear when the GOP-led Senate will vote on the legislation.