Senate GOP emergency relief plan leaves out direct aid to states

Senate GOP emergency relief plan leaves out direct aid to states
FILE - In this Aug. 3, 2020, file photo dark clouds and heavy rain sweep over the U.S. Capitol in Washington. At least a government shutdown is off the table. But as lawmakers straggle back to Washington for an abbreviated pre-election session, hopes are fading for a pandemic relief bill, or much else. (Source: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

WASHINGTON — Senate Republicans unveiled their latest coronavirus relief proposal Tuesday but were met with swift objections from Democrats.

The GOP plan failed to include direct aid to cities and states, a priority for Democrats, or rental relief or nutrition assistance, and it appeared it wouldn’t go far enough to resolve a monthslong stalemate over providing additional emergency aid to Americans. The Senate plans a vote later this week.

The $500 billion GOP package includes enhanced unemployment benefits, another round of federal small business loans, and billions of dollars to help schools and universities reopen safely.

It would also boost COVID-19 testing, contact tracing, treatments and vaccine development; and help the U.S. Postal Service accommodate an expected surge of mail-in ballots this fall.

The package would also give families two years of tax credits for contributions to “scholarship granting organizations” — which could be used for private school tuition and homeschooling expenses. A Republican summary gave credit to Republican Sens. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Tim Scott of South Carolina and Ted Cruz of Texas for insisting on including a version of school choice in the bill.

And the measure would provide legal protections as organizations reopen amid the pandemic — a must-do for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

It would be offset by claiming spent and unallocated funds in earlier coronavirus relief packages.

“We want to agree where bipartisan agreement is possible, get more help out the door and then keep arguing over the rest later,” McConnell said on the Senate floor Tuesday.

The Virginia Mercury is a new, nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization covering Virginia government and policy.