Manchin touts bipartisan COVID-19 relief package

WASHINGTON — A U.S. Senator from West Virginia outlined the work going into a COVID emergency relief package being worked on in Washington, D.C., to provide additional relief during the ongoing pandemic.

U.S. Senator Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., held a tele-press conference Wednesday afternoon with reporters from around the state regarding the bipartisan, bicameral COVID-19 emergency relief framework he announced with 15 bipartisan, bicameral colleagues.

“About three weeks ago, after the election, there was a group of us who got together, Democrats and Republicans,” Manchin said. “We are all friends and have worked together on many projects. Many people don’t get to see that or hear about it much.

“We said something had to be done before we went home at Christmas time, because the need is so great.”

The time element involved was because the previous COVID relief measures are set to expire at the end of the year.

“Basically, all of the lifeline programs we started with the CARES Act back in July will be all gone by the end of December,” Manchin said.

The proposed $908 billion bill would provide $160 billion for state, local and tribal governments; $180 billion in additional unemployment insurance; $288 billion in support for small businesses, including Paycheck Protection Program and other assistance; and more.

The legislation would also provide help for community lender support; transportation; vaccine development and distribution and testing and tracing; healthcare provider relief ; education, student loans; housing assistance; nutrition/agriculture; the U.S. Post Service; child care; broadband; and opioid treatment.

The bill also provides short term federal protection from coronavirus related lawsuits with the purpose of giving states time to develop their own response.

The things set to expire at the end of the month include the emergency unemployment compensation, the pandemic unemployment assistance expires, the measures preventing evictions will stop, state and local funding help stops, small business debt relief ends and more.

If nothing is done, Manchin said the results to the nation’s economy will be similar to the Great Recession of 2007-09.

Manchin said lawmakers, from both sides of the aisle, have been working on the categories where the need was the most as well as work it in such a way to eliminate abuse.

“We are working to make sure this package gets to where the needs are,” he said.

Quoting a Republican colleague, the senator said this money would go a much longer way now for people to get through the pandemic rather than waiting to February and March when they would likely have to spend $2 trillion.

“We are saving a lot of people from falling through the cracks in a situation that might not come back for some businesses and some employees,” Manchin said. “With that, we know the urgency is there.”

Once this bill was unveiled to the public, a short time later Senate Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., came out with a different bill which Manchin said doesn’t cover what their bill does.

According to Manchin, McConnell’s bill has nothing for rural hospitals or nursing homes, nothing for food assistance, nothing for rental assistance, nothing for opioid treatment, nothing for broadband and nothing for state or local “to get through this most difficult time.”

“His bill has nothing for what is needed right now that is on the line that is being eliminated in December,” Manchin added.

The senator said they have 10 Republican Senators onboard with their bill and is hoping to add more.

“It is moving into a very good position right now,” he said. “It has something for everyone who is in dire need.”

Their bill also includes $300 a week in unemployment payments for people ; a three to four month furlough on paying back student loans and more.

“These are the things we are doing because people are hurting,” Manchin said. “We are doing everything we can.”

Manchin believes they have enough support to get their bill passed.

“We won’t go home for Christmas until we get a relief package,” he said.

They have been contacted by other Republican lawmakers and they are sharing what they have come up with, he said. They are working on the wording to make sure the money would be accessed in the right way to meet the needs that are out there.

Manchin said this is not the final bill on the matter.

Once the new administration comes into office in January, lawmakers will continue to look at where the need is and decide if more will need to be done.

Manchin said people may ask why they just didn’t send out another $1,200 stimulus check out to everyone. He said that might need to be done later on.

The money in their bill addresses the needs of many people who have been laid off, people’s businesses which are going under and more.

“We are doing everything we can to keep this economy alive until April 1,” Manchin said.

At that time, if President Joe Biden says they are going to need a stimulus package then they can take it up then and hopefully pass it.

With the bill they are working on, they “have met the needs of the emergency” they have, Manchin said.

“We want to make sure we will be able to take care of people in a longer period,” he added.

Once the COVID vaccine is rolled out and distributed many leaders hope that there will be a return to normal life and the economy will begin to recover.

“The bipartisan, bicameral framework we released (Tuesday) is the culmination of weeks of discussion, compromise and negotiation,” Manchin said. “I’m glad Senator (Chuck) Schumer and (House) Leader (Nancy) Pelosi recognize the importance of getting something done and I hope Senator McConnell and Minority Leader (Kevin) McCarthy will join us in these good faith negotiations for emergency relief.

“The American people cannot wait any longer.”

Contact Brett Dunlap at bdunlap@newsandsentinel.com


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *

Starting at $4.62/week.

Subscribe Today