With Congress facing a time crunch to approve both a federal budget deal and more federal COVID relief aid, a bipartisan group of lawmakers today (12/14) unveiled a two-part $908 billion COVID-19 relief package.
The first part would provide $748 billion to fund another round of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) assistance for small businesses; an extension of unemployment benefits; and more money for schools, COVID testing, vaccine distribution and other widely agreed-upon items.
The proposal is said to include $82 billion for education, an amount which includes $54 billion both K-12 education and $20 billion for colleges and universities. In addition, $7.5 billion is included for a Governor’s Fund. Provisions earmarking some of this funding for private and parochial schools are also included in the bipartisan package, although details were not available at the time this post was written.
The proposal is also said to include $10 billion for broadband, including $6 billion for state broadband connectivity and deployment and $3 billion for educational connectivity and distance learning.
The second part would provide $160 billion in aid for state and local governments as well as liability protections for businesses from COVID-related lawsuits. The bill would thus tie together the two most contentious issues to emerge from the several months of negotiations over a relief package. The liability provisions are apparently still being negotiated. In unveiling the proposal, Senators said the $160 billion in state and local government aid will be considered only if there is agreement on liability protections provisions.
Current funding for the federal government is slated to run out on Friday if no additional funding bill is approved. Congressional appropriators are said to be on the verge of agreeing on an omnibus federal budget bill, which is also expected to be the vehicle for any year-end COVID relief.
Congressional observers suggest that separating out the two most contentious issues that have so far blocked relief proposals from advancing could make it easier to persuade congressional leaders to take up the smaller coronavirus deal. They could either pass it separately or add it to the must-pass federal funding bill.
Check the WASB Legislative Update blog for updates.