Pelosi says far from coronavirus deal; more talks with White House today

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The coronavirus crisis has made tens of millions of Americans unemployed, and they have been relying on the $600 payments to cover their bills.

Millions of Americans will lose their $600-a-week enhanced unemployment unemployment at midnight on Friday as the White House and Democrats struggle to come up with a deal that would extend the benefits. Mitt Romney (R-UT) and other GOP senators on Thursday, would allow states to choose between reducing the unemployment benefits to an 80% wage replacement rate or gradually reducing the extra benefits to $500 per week in August, $400 per week in September, or $300 per week in October.

At the same time, at a press briefing, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said Speaker Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) have rejected four offers to "protect" the additional weekly unemployment benefits as well as the moratorium on evictions.

"We weren't bickering. We were having major policy disagreements", House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) told reporters.

Democrats proposed almost $1 trillion for the local governments, but Trump and Republicans are resisting sending the states and cities more cash.

Economic analyst Martin Cantor disagrees, saying the larger benefit gave some people an incentive not to work and that it needs to change if the economy is going to move forward.

"Pelosi & Schumer blocked desperately needed unemployment payments, which is so awful, especially since they fully understand that it was not the workers fault that they are unemployed", Trump wrote.

According to a person familiar with the closed-door negotiations, the White House proposed continuing the US$600 weekly unemployment payment for one week, which Pelosi and Schumer rejected.

Senate Republicans and the Trump administration are working on a temporary extension of the expanded unemployment insurance.

On Friday, Trump took to Twitter to explicitly endorse extending the $600 payment and to criticize top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer.

The stalemate on a single issue - jobless benefits - foreshadowed a steep climb to any overall coronavirus relief bill as the sides remain far apart on many issues. "They don't even have the votes for it in the Senate".

Both sides say the talks have not produced much progress, but they could be nearing a critical phase over the weekend and into next week.

The COVID package will be the fifth legislative response to the pandemic and could well be the last one before the November election.

The Democratic-controlled House passed legislation in May to address the unemployment aid and other issues, including food shortages, testing problems and money to help schools prepare for the return of students, she noted. But as the pandemic has worsened in past weeks - and as fractures inside the GOP have eroded the party's negotiating position - Republicans displayed some greater flexibility.

The Senate adjourned for the week on Thursday without a deal on a comprehensive coronavirus relief package, although Majority Leader Mitch McConnell did tee things up so the chamber could act quickly next week if there is a breakthrough.

Meadows played a role in killing an increase in food aid during talks on a $2 trillion relief bill in March, but Democrats are pressing hard for a boost in food stamp benefits.

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