After two weeks of negotiations, the $908 billion bipartisan and bicameral coronavirus stimulus bill spearheaded by Rep. Josh Gottheimer has been introduced as two separate measures.
“They said it couldn’t be done, but we actually got Democrats and Republicans in both chambers to come together…that is a Christmas miracle,” said Gottheimer at a press briefing Dec. 14. “I urge the passage of this comprehensive coronavirus relief package before we go home so that our country can begin the new year in the spirit of hope and optimism.”
The framework of the bill introduced publicly two week ago has been split due to the inability to come to an agreement on key issues for Republicans and Democrats. The first bill of $748 billion includes both new funding and the reallocation of previously appropriated CARES Act funding. This bill is considered the less controversial of the two, which backers hope will be passed quickly.
Seeking Aid for States
The second bill, with a price tag of $160 billion, centers around two issues lawmakers stated have stalled negotiations: worker and corporate liability protections sought by Republicans and state and local aid wanted by Democrats.
“We are pleased to reach a common sense, bipartisan agreement,” said Gottheimer. “(This is) something that is a short-term, focused down payment that will get us through to the next administration.”
At a press conference announcing the two bills, Gottheimer stated passage is urgently needed as 30% of business have already been shuttered, Americans are in food lines for the very first time and firefighters, cops and teachers are facing pink slips this Christmas.
Gottheimer bemoaned the gridlock in Washington that has prevented emergency COVID relief sooner, an need he believes Americans all agree on as the nation faces a brutal winter ahead, with the spikes in news cases and deaths increasing each day.
“Yet here we are nine months after passing the bipartisan CARES Act we have stuck in the mud in delivering relief for our families for our communities and small businesses,” said the North Jersey Congressman. “Until today.”
In the $748 billion stimulus bill, funding would go for
- Additional Unemployment Insurance – $180 billion
- Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) including restaurants, stages, and deductibility – $288 billion
- CDFI/MDI Community Lender Support – $12 billion
- Transportation (Airlines, Airports, Buses, Transit and Amtrak) – $45 billion
- Vaccine Development and Distribution and Testing and Tracing – $16 billion
- Healthcare Provider Relief Fund – $35 billion
- Education Funding – $82 billion
- Student Loans – $4 billion
- Housing Assistance (Rental) – $25 billion
- Nutrition/Agriculture – $26 billion
- U.S. Postal Service – $10 billion
- Child Care – $10 billion
- Dedicated Broadband Funding – $10 billion
- Opioid Funding – $5 billion
Gottheimer said the Problem Solvers Caucus that he co-chairs is still focused on a singular $908 billion package “but like in any negotiation, there were parts we did not get. But going home with nothing for the American people is simply not an option.”
Work Not Done
The caucus intends to keep negotiating to insure passage of a relief bill focused on tweaking on worker liability and corporation protections to make sure state and local governments receive the federal aid they have been seeking.
Gottheimer thanked the Senators for working to write the bills—including on Thanksgiving—in an attempt to get legislation passed through both chambers and signed into law by the President.
“These are not often the folks you see on television or social media slugging it out, screaming and yelling and tweeting nasty things—this is not this group,” said Gottheimer, specifically citing Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Susan Collins (R-ME) for their leadership. “These are the ones who know how hard this year has been for our country and our neighbors, how much resentment and fear still grips our nation, and these are the leaders who recognize that country should always come ahead of party.”