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Congress trying to extend & double unemployment, authorize $600-700 stimulus check by Christmas

By Eric Rosario

Americans likely will get an additional $300 a week in the new year, and a second stimulus check between $600 and $700 before Christmas if a bipartisan bill in Congress continues on track the next week.

Congressmen Michael San Nicolas and Gregorio "Kilili" Sablan and their colleagues in Congress likely will be working through the weekend and into next week to finalize the extension of relief.

"All details are preliminary and we will give firm updates when available, but no matter what, we have secured Guam to be proportionally included in the final package," Mr. San Nicolas said.
"The situation is still fluid currently," Mr. Sablan said. "We are, I think, on the seventh draft of the COVID aid bill. Still many moving parts. Even if there is agreement with a majority in both chambers, one senator could delay the entire thing. But it appears that Pelosi and Schumer, McConnell and McCarthy and Mnuchin continue to talk so that looks promising. But prior agreements just days ago, or even in the last 24 hours, have been pulled out because one senator asked to include a poison pill provision in the agreement."

The current weekly round of up to $340 in unemployment assistance is set to expire this month. Congress needs to reauthorize those payments if qualified recipients are to continue receiving aid. Both Democrat and Republican legislators have generally agreed on adding $300 a week to that amount.

U.S. Senators previously were at an impasse regarding a second stimulus payment, but Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) told reporters Wednesday that the new deal likely will include one-time payments of between $600 and $700.

The Washington Post is reporting the new stimulus package will be available for dependents, including adult dependents such as college students. Otherwise, the qualifications for the stimulus payments will mirror those from the original stimulus package in the CARES Act.

A “bipartisan, bicameral agreement appears to be close at hand,” Senate Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said on the floor of the Senate yesterday.

Lawmakers working through a snag

Lawmakers hit a snag today, however, in their quest to finish the agreement. Republicans in the Senate are trying to cut off the next president's access to Federal Reserve lending facilities authorized under the CARES Act.

Both houses of Congress instead passed a two-day stop gap measure to fund the government and avert a shutdown, which would have happened Saturday night without a continuing resolution. Lawmakers will continue working on the nearly-$1 trillion relief package.

"The weekend funding extension would buy lawmakers a little more time to pass the $1.4 trillion fiscal 2021 omnibus appropriations bill, which is expected to carry a roughly $900 billion coronavirus relief package and a smattering of unrelated legislation," Mr. Sablan said.

Democrats say the language sought by Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) to restrict President-elect Biden's ability to access the Federal Reserve is overly broad and restrictive.

"After weeks of refusing to acknowledge Biden's victory, some Republicans have now decided that sabotaging his presidency is more important than helping our economy recover by insisting that any Covid relief legislation also restrict the ability of the Federal Reserve and the new Administration to help states, cities, and American businesses next year," Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), said in a statement.

Mr. McConnell remained optimistic, though, that Congress will pull through an agreement.

"I am even more optimistic now than I was last night that a bipartisan, bicameral framework for a major rescue package is close at hand," Mr. McConnell said. "Like I’ve said, the Senate will be right here until an agreement is passed, whenever that may be."

The majority leader had been communicating with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi throughout the day.

Mr. Sablan believes lawmakers will come to their senses as the Christmas holiday approaches, and get the aid package through.

"I am cautiously optimistic," he said. "But I remain hopeful that members will smell the jet fumes and decide they want to be home for Christmas and finally and fully agree to a package. And though I remain overly optimistic that early in the Biden Administration, another COVID-19 aid bill that include assistance to state, local, tribal and territories’ governments will be fully addressed, much of that remains in the result of the Georgia run-off elections."

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