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Pelosi, Mnuchin Making Progress on New COVID Stimulus Package, Direct Payments Intact

If a deal can’t be struck ahead of the spending-heavy holiday season, the USS America could just sink.

Health experts tend to agree that we still have a fair amount of time left living with this coronavirus pandemic, as proven treatments and vaccines remain elusive.

This prolonged economic downturn has had some horrific effects on the American way of life, however.  Businesses around the nation are shutting their doors for good, workers are remaining unemployed for great lengths of time, and the assets of some of our nation’s largest corporations could soon be on the auction block.

Compounding this shutdown is the uncertainty of what’s next, with Americans hoarding what little money they have, stalling our economy even more.  That’s why a coronavirus stimulus package from the federal government is precisely the sort of fiscal boost that we need.

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Unfortunately, our elected officials have had a hell of a time trying to piece one together.  There was some progress this week, however.

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After weeks of fizzling negotiations, there is a modicum of renewed hope for a bipartisan deal on another coronavirus relief bill. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have spoken several times over the past few days trying to bridge a seemingly intractable divide between Republicans and Democrats. On Tuesday, the two spoke by phone for nearly 50 minutes and reviewed provisions from the updated Heroes Act proposal that Democrats had unveiled on Monday evening. The two did not reach an agreement, but decided to speak again on Wednesday. Mnuchin is expected to come to Wednesday’s meeting with a counteroffer, according to two people with knowledge of the talks. Mnuchin has indicated the offer will closely resemble the $1.5 trillion bipartisan proposal that a bipartisan group in the House, unveiled earlier in September.

The updated Heroes Act that Pelosi and House Democrats unveiled on Monday scaled back the proposal’s cost from $3.4 trillion to $2.2 trillion. This leaves not only a sizeable gap between Democrats and the White House, but also a chasm between Democrats and Senate Republicans. The White House has indicated that a $1.5 billion proposal from a bipartisan group in the House was “not a showstopper.” While that divide may be surmountable, the gap between the $300 billion proposal that Senate Republicans most recently voted on and the updated Heroes Act may prove insuperable.

The new deal seems to be headed in the direction of a $300 to $400 boost in unemployment benefits and further direct payments to Americans, which could provide the sort of cash-velocity to keep our nation’s small businesses open.

Combined with the coming holiday spending season, this may be our last true chance to stave off an economic disaster the likes of which we’ve never seen before.

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