Sen. Cassidy discusses Republicans’ new COVID-19 aid package

Updated: Jul. 28, 2020 at 10:11 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-Louisiana, says he does not want to see people left in a bind with an abrupt end to the pandemic-related federal jobless benefits and Cassidy also wants more funding to help state and local governments as Congress works on a new COVID-19 aid package.

“I will say that I am committed to whatever is needed for a family to be able to kind of continue to exist, to flourish, if you will, even if their job is not available,” said Cassidy during a conference call with journalists.

This week GOP senators rolled out a proposed $1 trillion aid package.

Democrats in the U.S. House have their own package of proposals to provide additional aid.

Cassidy said reaching a deal will involve negotiations.

“We’ve got to support families, where we end up is going to be subject to negotiation,” he said.

The current $600 per week federal stipend for the unemployed ends on July 31. Republicans propose it be replaced with $200 a week through September on top of the benefit states provide the unemployed. Cassidy’s office said under the GOP package, starting in October, unemployed individuals would receive a benefit that includes the state and federal dollars to replace 70 percent of their pre-pandemic wages and the additional payment would be limited to no more than $500.

“So there is that tension and we’re trying to get it just right in this Heal ACT that will allow that kind of dovetail as the jobs become available the benefit declines but people do okay because their job has become available once more,” said Cassidy.

He said the goal is not to incentivize people not to return to available jobs.

“Across the political spectrum economists will say if people earn more on unemployment they’re less likely to work,” said Cassidy. “If the economy is reopening and jobs are becoming available then obviously people can return to work and they do better back at work; they gain more seniority, they get benefits, etc., so we’re trying to have a policy that respects that tension.”

The GOP’s package also provides another round of $1,200 checks to Americans earning $75,000 or less. The legislation also provides new money and tax breaks for businesses.

“For example, allowing businesses to expense business meals at a hundred percent for some period of time; encouraging businesses to once more frequent restaurants,” said Cassidy.

Democrats in the Senate accuse Republicans of dragging their feet at a time when people are suffering.

“Protections against evictions expired last week at a time when over 12 million Americans lived in households that missed the rent payment last month. Enhanced unemployment benefits for 20 to 30 million Americans out of work expire this week without a proper solution,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York.

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