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Pelosi, Mnuchin continue relief bill talks, but prospects remain uncertain

Another 837,000 Americans filed new claims for unemployment benefits last week -- a slight decline from the week before, but still a historically high level. Meanwhile, prospects for new federal pandemic relief remain uncertain, though House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin continued their talks Thursday. Lisa Desjardins and Yamiche Alcindor join Judy Woodruff to discuss.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    It is yet another sign that the economic pain from the coronavirus pandemic won't be subsiding anytime soon; 837,000 Americans filed new claims for unemployment benefits last week. That number did inch lower from the previous week's figure, but it remains at historically high levels.

    Meanwhile, prospects for new federal relief are still uncertain tonight. Talks between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin continued this afternoon.

    And for the latest on where things stand, we turn to our Lisa Desjardins and Yamiche Alcindor

    So, Lisa, to you first.

    Where do things stand and what are Democrats asking for?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Hope is not gone, Judy, but it does seem late today that we have — there has been more look at the disagreement between the White House and Democrats than the agreement.

    Still, it does seem both sides are highly motivated to try and get a deal for a number of reasons. But let's look, first of all, at what Democrats are, what they have on the table at this point.

    Democrats' latest plan for COVID relief is $2.2 trillion. Let's look at a graphic. So, there you can see there's a $2.2 trillion plan from Democrats.

    Of that, $436 billion would be for state and local governments, including tribal governments, $600 per week in additional benefits for the unemployed — that is money that has run out, technically, now — $75 billion for testing and tracing, and $71 billion for a major Democratic priority. That's rental and mortgage assistance.

    Judy, this all speaks to what Americans are facing right now and the fears by many of these lawmakers who are trying to push for a deal that, in coming months, if cases rise, especially cases rise, that things are going to get worse.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, Yamiche, at the White House, what are they saying about what they want, what they expect from this COVID relief bill?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Well, again, as Lisa said, hope isn't gone, but it really looks like this is going to be a tough thing. They have been negotiating now for weeks and months, and they still have not been able to get together and really focus in on agreeing on some key things.

    So, the White House and President Trump have been told — and, especially, the White House has heard from President Trump, instructing Secretary — Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin to keep coming up with his number, because GOP lawmakers don't want to spend about more than $1 trillion.

    But the new White House plan, the latest offer was $1.62 trillion. And we put it up for people. I want to walk through what that entails, $250 billion for state and local governments. That's $186 billion less than Democrats want to spend — $400 per week in additional job benefits, that's $200 less than Democrats want, $75 billion for testing and trailing.

    There's agreement on that as of now — $60 billion for rental and mortgage assistance, that's $11 billion less than Democrats.

    So, as you can see, the numbers are starting to get higher, but they're not anywhere near each other, especially on that critical issue of state and local governments.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And so, Yamiche, how is the White House working with Republicans in Congress to get this bill passed?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Well, GOP lawmakers, especially Republican senators, have really been remiss to want to agree to anything that's more than $1 trillion.

    But each time that the Treasury secretary, Steve Mnuchin, and Nancy Pelosi speak, Mnuchin then briefs Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Now, Mitch McConnell today said he wishes them well, talking about Nancy Pelosi and Steve Mnuchin, essentially saying: We have been trying for a long time, and I hope that they can get something together, but, really, good luck with that.

    It was seen as a little bit of Mitch McConnell saying: I'm not sure that this is going to come together.

    This is a critical thing, because, if they don't come together, we might be seeing massive layoffs, more layoffs, rather. So many Americans out there are struggling without jobs. So, the president really also sees this as not wanting to look like he failed when it came to negotiations between the White House and Congress, especially when he's looking at his reelection bid.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, just finally, quickly, Lisa, these talks had been essentially frozen for weeks and weeks. Why the sudden movement?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Two reasons.

    One, moderates from both parties have been hearing from businesses in their districts, in their states saying they are worried about the next few months if they don't have any more relief.

    And then, secondly, the airline industry. Their announcements that furloughs, job cuts in the — to the tune of tens of thousands could be coming without congressional action, that's being taken very seriously. Here, we see leaders trying to avoid those furloughs by the airline industry.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And we're watching that in airlines and other industries as well.

    Lisa Desjardins, Yamiche Alcindor, we thank you both.

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