GOP senators detail $618 billion COVID relief counteroffer

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Washington — The group of 10 Republican senators seeking to negotiate with President Biden on a new round of COVID-19 relief unveiled details of their proposal on Monday, hours before the lawmakers are set to meet with the president at the White House.

The proposal by the group, led by Senator Susan Collins of Maine, totals roughly $618 billion, or about a third of the size of the $1.9 trillion plan put forward by the president and Democratic leaders in Congress. The counteroffer from the group comes as congressional Democrats are preparing to move forward with the administration’s proposed plan, with or without GOP support. 

The GOP plan calls for another round of direct payments to taxpayers, but would cap the income level of those who are eligible to receive them at a lower level than previous rounds of aid. Individuals making less than $40,000 would receive $1,000, with the amount tapering off for those making between $40,000 and $50,000. 

Couples filing jointly would receive double that amount, with the amount tapering off for those making more than $80,000, up to $100,000. An additional $500 would be provided for every dependent child and adult. Previous rounds of direct payments were based on income reported on 2019 tax returns.

The proposal would also extend expanded federal unemployment insurance to $300 per week through June 30, on top of state benefits. Mr. Biden has sought an extension of unemployment aid through September.

The plan includes $160 billion for a national vaccine program, personal protective equipment production and expanded testing, as well as a $40 billion injection into the Paycheck Protection Program to provide loans to small businesses. It would also allocate $20 billion in an initiative to get children back to school, and extend expanded SNAP benefits through September at a cost of $3 billion.

The GOP proposal does not include any funds allocated for state and local governments, and does not mention increasing the federal minimum wage, both key priorities in the administration’s package.

The senators who have signed onto the proposal include Collins, Rob Portman of Ohio, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mitt Romney of Utah, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Todd Young of Indiana, Jerry Moran of Kansas, Mike Rounds of South Dakota and Thom Tillis of North Carolina. 

Mr. Biden is planning to meet with the group on Monday to discuss the proposal and his administration’s plan. The White House said the president is open to a “full exchange of ideas.”

Ed O’Keefe contributed reporting.

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