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White House drops payroll tax cut as GOP unveils virus aid

The USD 600 weekly unemployment benefit boost that is expiring Friday will be reduced, likely to USD 200, and ultimately adjusted according to state jobless benefits rates.

By: AP | Washington |
Updated: July 23, 2020 9:11:35 pm
President Donald Trump is at odds over priorities, and Democrats say it’s not nearly enough to stem the health crisis, reopen schools and extend aid to jobless Americans.

The White House has dropped a bid to cut Social Security payroll taxes as Republicans unveil a USD 1 trillion COVID-19 rescue package on Thursday, ceding to opposition to the idea among top Senate allies.

“It won’t be in the base bill,” said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, speaking on CNBC about the payroll tax cut, killing the idea for now.

The legislation, set to be released Thursday morning by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., comes amid alarming developments on the virus crisis. McConnell’s package is an opening GOP bid in talks with top Capitol Hill Democrats in a negotiation that could be rockier than talks in March that produced a USD 2 trillion rescue package.

GOP senators and President Donald Trump are at odds over priorities, and Democrats say it’s not nearly enough to stem the health crisis, reopen schools and extend aid to jobless Americans.

The Republican leader is expected to deliver a speech shortly after the Senate opens, and then senators will begin rolling out their separate parts of the package, according to a Republican granted anonymity to discuss the plans.

The centerpiece of the GOP effort remains McConnell’s liability shield to protect businesses, schools and others from coronavirus-related lawsuits.

The package is not expected to provide any new money for cash-strapped states and cities, which are clamoring for funds, but Republicans propose giving $105 billion to help schools reopen and USD 15 billion for child care centers to create safe environments for youngsters during the pandemic.

But the GOP measure forges an immediate agreement with Democrats on another round of USD 1,200 checks to most American adults.

The USD 600 weekly unemployment benefit boost that is expiring Friday will be reduced, likely to USD 200, and ultimately adjusted according to state jobless benefits rates. Some Republicans say the boost is a disincentive to work, but others prefer a phased approach. Some Republicans are pressing for a temporary extension of the current benefit if the talks drag.

“We cannot allow there to be a cliff in unemployment insurance given we’re still at about 11 per cent unemployment,” said Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio.

The bill is likely to be silent on the potential housing crisis as a federal eviction moratorium on millions of rental units expires in days.

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