Nancy Pelosi says coronavirus aid bill will cost at least $1.3 trillion, but 'that's not enough'

Key Points
  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says a developing coronavirus relief bill will cost at least $1.3 trillion, but argues it is not enough as the pandemic spreads unabated. 
  • Congress has only days to extend a $600 per week enhanced unemployment benefit that has been a critical lifeline for jobless Americans during the economic crisis. 
  • Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell need to resolve several key issues, including how to help schools reopen safely and whether to send another round of direct payments, provide more relief to state and local governments and deliver assistance to renters and homeowners.
U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) speaks to reporters during her weekly news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, July 16, 2020.
Tom Brenner | Reuters

Democrats and Republicans need to resolve several disputes about what to include in a developing coronavirus relief bill as the pandemic wreaks havoc across the United States and financial lifelines are set to expire, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday.

Leaders in the Democratic-held House and GOP-controlled Senate acknowledge they need to approve more aid to combat the deadly disease's unabated spread while supporting the economy and educating students. But with only about two weeks until Congress plans to leave Washington for all of August, Pelosi still sees a gulf in the breadth of relief she and her Republican counterparts want to provide. 

"They know there's going to be a bill. … First it was going to be no bill. And then it was going to be some little bill. Now it's $1.3 [trillion]. That's not enough," she told reporters Thursday in Washington. 

The Senate aims to unveil coronavirus relief plans next week, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in his home state of Kentucky on Wednesday. The Republican added that "kids in school, jobs and health care are likely to be the focus of the bill."

Nancy Pelosi on wearing mask, other measures to help reopen the economy
Nancy Pelosi on wearing mask, other measures to help reopen the economy

Pelosi has pushed for another round of direct payments to individuals, and McConnell has said he is open to another stimulus check — though it remains to be seen what limits lawmakers will place on who receives money. Both leaders have called for federal funding or incentives to allow schools to reopen as safely as possible in the fall. 

But the leaders appear divided on several thorny issues. 

Congress has only days to prevent millions of Americans left jobless by the pandemic from seeing their income dry up, as the $600 per week federal unemployment benefit passed in March expires at the end of the month. Last week, 1.3 million people filed new jobless claims, underscoring an ongoing crisis as many businesses remain closed and states facing virus outbreaks pause or roll back plans to reopen their economies. 

While Democrats want to extend the enhanced unemployment insurance, McConnell and President Donald Trump's top economic advisors want to end it as designed now because it left certain people making more money at home than they did at their jobs. It is unclear how lawmakers could craft future aid for people still struggling to cover costs after losing their jobs. 

Other points of conflict Congress will need to resolve include: 

  • Democrats want to pass assistance for renters and homeowners as local and state eviction and foreclosure moratoriums start to expire around the country. Pelosi called the issue "very urgent" and said Republicans have opposed allocating money for housing relief. 
  • Pelosi has pushed to send nearly $1 trillion to state and local governments facing lost revenue and increased costs due to the pandemic. McConnell has resisted approving more aid for states and municipalities, arguing he does not want to cover for bad financial decisions made before the pandemic hit. 
  • McConnell has said any bill will have to include liability protections for doctors and businesses. Democrats generally oppose the proposal, but Pelosi has said she wants to see exactly how the GOP would structure a legal shield. 
  • Democrats want to expand Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, but Republicans opposed doing so in the spring. 
  • Pelosi has proposed stronger Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards to protect workers during the pandemic, a plan she said the GOP has resisted.

While lawmakers plan to go home from the start of August through Labor Day, Pelosi said this week that she would cancel the House's August recess if needed to pass another aid bill.

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