WASHINGTON — An eviction moratorium is lifting. Extra unemployment benefits are ending. Parents are being called to work, but schools are struggling to reopen for fall as the COVID-19 crisis shows no signs of easing.
With Congress bracing for the next coronavirus aid package, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is outlining Republican priorities as earlier programs designed to ease Americans through the pandemic and economic fallout begin to expire. He is eyeing $1 trillion in new aid.
“This is not over,” McConnell said during a visit to a food pantry Monday in Louisville, Kentucky.
The GOP leader’s next virus aid package is centered on liability protections, a top priority for Republicans seeking to shield doctors, schools, businesses and others from coronavirus-related lawsuits brought by patrons claiming injuries during reopenings.
McConnell is also considering a fresh round of direct payments targeted at those earning $40,000 a year or less. He wants the liability shield to run for five years, retroactive to December 2019.
“Liability reform, kids in school, jobs and health care,” he said. “That’s where the focus, it seems to me, ought to be.”
Democrats have proposed a far more ambitious aid approach in the $3 trillion House-passed coronavirus rescue package, setting the outlines of a robust debate over how best to help Americans as COVID-19 cases surge in hot spots nationwide, threatening public health and economic livelihoods.
Congress is away for a two-week recess, but the contours of the debate are taking shape before lawmakers resume session July 20. Deadlines for many programs expire by the end of the month.
McConnell’s earlier decision to hit “pause” on new relief has infuriated Democrats, especially as state and local governments clamor for aid to prevent worker layoffs.