Top Colorado Democrats and liberal groups are denouncing the latest coronavirus relief legislation proposed by Republicans in the U.S. Senate, as negotiations over the next phase of the federal government’s crisis response begin in earnest.
On July 27, Senate Republicans unveiled the Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection and Schools (HEALS) Act, their proposal for the next round of pandemic relief following the expiration of a key unemployment benefit last week. In remarks on the Senate floor, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called the proposal a “bold framework to help our nation.”
“We have produced a tailored and targeted draft that will cut right to the heart of three distinct crises facing our country — getting kids back in school, getting workers back to work, and winning the healthcare fight against the virus,” McConnell said.
Among the provisions included in the $1 trillion HEALS Act are a new round of funding for the Paycheck Protection Program; another direct $1,200 stimulus payment to most Americans; $100 billion in school funding; and liability protections that will shield businesses from coronavirus-related lawsuits for up to five years.
Critics of the Republican proposal, however, said it falls far short of what’s needed to address the ongoing damage caused by COVID-19, the spread of which has accelerated in Colorado and many other parts of the country in recent weeks. In particular, Democrats and liberal groups criticized the HEALS Act’s proposal to slash a $600 weekly unemployment benefit authorized by Congress earlier this year to $200 per week, as well as its lack of funding for state and local governments facing severe budget shortfalls due to the pandemic’s economic fallout.
“Hundreds of thousands of Coloradans are facing unemployment, hunger, and eviction because of the coronavirus pandemic and the associated recession,” Carol Hedges, director of the Colorado Fiscal Institute, said in a statement. “This crisis is bigger than any in our lifetime. Unfortunately, the proposal unveiled yesterday falls short of meeting the needs of Colorado families, our cities and school districts, or the state’s economy.”
In a press release, Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet echoed those criticisms, calling the GOP proposal “woefully inadequate.”
“After four months of inaction, the White House and Republicans in Congress finally released a partisan proposal written behind closed doors without any input from Democrats,” Bennet said. “We must reject this partisan approach and immediately negotiate a bipartisan bill that matches the scale of the public health and economic crisis we face.”
Democrats in the U.S. House had more than two months ago passed a $3 trillion bill that would extend current unemployment benefits through January 2021. The bill would also send another round of direct $1,200 payments to eligible adults, and it has $175 billion to help Americans make rent and mortgage payments.