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Where Senate Republicans stand on proposal for more coronavirus aid

It has been months since Congress passed a coronavirus relief bill into law. The extra $600 per week in unemployment benefits granted by an earlier piece of legislation expires this Friday, leaving millions of Americans in financial limbo. Though Senate Republicans unveiled their proposed bill on Monday, it's not clear it will garner enough support. Lisa Desjardins joins Judy Woodruff to discuss.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    It has been months since the last coronavirus relief bill, and the extra $600 a week that it granted in unemployment benefits is set to expire on Friday. That is leaving millions of Americans in limbo, as Congress debates what comes next.

    Today, Republicans unveiled their proposed bill.

    Our Lisa Desjardins is here to explain how close Congress is to a deal.

    So, Lisa, this is all happening late in the day. After days of disagreements, Republicans finally giving some public specifics. What are you hearing?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    That's right.

    Just in the last hour, Judy, Republicans have unveiled their specific proposals and legislative text. As we speak, Leader McConnell is at the microphone explaining it to reporters.

    And I can tell you a little about what is in it. They are proposing direct payment checks for most Americans of $1,200 per person. There would be an extra amount if you have an adult dependent, say, a college student.

    Also in this bill, there would be some additional money for schools — I think we're going to be talking about that for the next couple of days — as well as some money for unemployment benefits that I think is important to dissect.

    And Republicans are pushing liability protection, so that businesses, it would be harder to it would be harder to sue them for anything related to the coronavirus.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And so, Lisa, tell us a little more about what they're saying about these extended unemployment benefits. It had been an additional $600 a week. The Democrats wanted that to continue. Now we're hearing from Republicans what they're prepared to do.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    That's right. This is so important. This will affect 20 million Americans. It's already affecting them now.

    Again, let's look at what we're talking about here. First, as you said, Judy, right now, there are $600 per week in added benefits because of the pandemic. However, Republicans would change that in their proposal to $200 per week instead.

    And they would ultimately want to change that to 70 percent of wages, instead of that $200 flat rate. For some people, that 70 percent will be more, especially if you're higher income. For other people, that will be less than $200, if you're lower income.

    Republicans in general say their philosophy here is that they think this added amount of money for unemployment is discouraging people from staying on the job, encouraging them to stay on unemployment. That's why they want to bring it down to a lower amount.

    But, Judy, Democrats raised a couple of points on their own. They say, if you change this amount at all from the $600 to anything else, that alone will take weeks for state unemployment offices to adjust to. And if you change the entire way of going about it, say, to a percentage formula, that could take months.

    Judy, while the deadline for this money runs out Friday, technically, many of these states have already said that they will not issue this money in the next check.

    So, Judy, because Congress hasn't acted on these unemployment benefits, we know, a week from today, people getting unemployment benefits will see $600 less. Congress may try and backfill that later, but, right now, there will be a gap for those families.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, Lisa, with so many people dependent on whether it's these extended — expanded unemployment benefits or other aspects of this relief plan, when does it look as if there could be an agreement, a deal?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Let's look at the calendar. It's very tight, Judy.

    If you look at just today, for example, here's Monday. Congress on Friday faces that unemployment deadline when money runs out for these enhanced benefits. Then, if you look at the next date on the calendar, that's the end of the first week of August. That's when Congress wants to leave almost until November.

    Now, what other dates are on our minds? August 17. That is when the Democratic Convention begins. So, Congress really is trying to get all of this done in two weeks. But, Judy, they are very far apart. Republicans don't even agree amongst themselves. It's not clear that this proposal I have talked to you about could pass amongst Republicans, much less Democrats, who now are sitting down with Republicans to see if they can make a deal.

    They're very far apart at this moment.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    It certainly does sound like it.

    Well, I know you're going to be watching it, and everybody's waiting to see what happens.

    Finally, Lisa, today is the day that the United States Capitol, the Congress, members of Congress say farewell to civil rights icon John Lewis.

    I know you covered him. You have talked to so many members. What does losing him mean to them?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    This was a profound moment, I think, for most every month of Congress in both parties.

    You know, Representative Lewis is the first African American to lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda. Others, Rosa Parks, for example, Officer Jacob Chestnut, have been there in repose, but not lying in state as an official. So it's a high honor.

    Senator Tim Scott, another African American, a Republican, said it was a hero's farewell and deserved.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Certainly so. Certainly so.

    Lisa Desjardins covering it all for us.

    Thank you, Lisa.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    You're welcome.

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