ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
After some delays, congressional Republicans have rolled out a proposal today detailing what they think should be included in the next wave of coronavirus relief aid. Here's Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
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MITCH MCCONNELL: We have produced a tailored and targeted draft that will cut right to the heart of three distinct crises facing our country - getting kids back in school, getting workers back to work and winning the health care fight against the virus.
SHAPIRO: Democrats say this plan doesn't do enough to support Americans. NPR congressional reporter Claudia Grisales is following these developments and joins us now.
CLAUDIA GRISALES, BYLINE: Hi, Ari.
SHAPIRO: So what have the Republicans put in their bill?
GRISALES: So this bill, they're calling it the HEALS Act. This is for the Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection and Schools Act. It's a mouthful, but it covers a lot of areas. It covers payments to families again, unemployment money and new legal protections for businesses. This was a marquee issue for Republicans during this round of relief.
Key committee chairs drafted the various components of the bill. They're rolling them out slowly, even as we speak. On the direct payments for Americans, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said this would be the same as the previous round, which was $1,200, up to a certain income level for Americans. The unemployment benefits are expected to fall way short in their proposal of what we currently see this week. This is the last week of the benefits where laid-off workers were getting an extra $600 a week. That would fall to $200 under this Republican proposal.
It also includes more than a hundred billion for schools, and there's money for testing and a popular small business loan vehicle known as the Paycheck Protection Program.
SHAPIRO: So compare that to what Democrats are proposing. How far apart are the two plans?
GRISALES: Very far apart - they've reiterated that they've already got the solution to all this. They call it the HEROES Act. This was passed more than two months ago by the House. That's a $3 trillion plan. This is a lot more than the Republican plan, which we expect to come in around the $1 trillion mark. And they say some of their asks are even going up since they passed their own bill in May, such as school funding which they say needs even more money now with how conditions have changed. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer was just on the floor after McConnell spoke. He said the bill was weak, and it's too little, too late.
SHAPIRO: Among the various disagreements, this $600 a week that unemployed people have been getting is a big one. You mentioned that Republicans would like to lower it to $200. Democrats want to keep it at 600. What do you expect we'll see in the final bill?
GRISALES: So the $600 figure, I imagine, will be very difficult to get into this next bill. Republicans have really been pushing hard against this. Even as they were passing it earlier this year, they were really concerned. And we've heard Democrats soften on this, so perhaps they would agree to a lower figure. I imagine 200 is going to be a lot lower than Democrats want to go, just reflecting on Schumer's reaction. So I think in this new measure, it could be tough to see that repeated.
Tonight, however, Republicans are set to meet. White House Republican leaders - this is Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows - are going to be meeting with Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in her office to really begin these negotiations in earnest.
SHAPIRO: But some of these unemployment benefits are expiring really soon, like Friday. What does that mean for millions of people who are relying on them?
GRISALES: They are going to be facing a very tough scenario. They very likely could face a week, coming next week, where they will not see that extra $600. There is talk that there could be back payments for this. But that all depends on how these negotiations go, and those could take another couple weeks to wrap up.
SHAPIRO: NPR's Claudia Grisales, thank you very much for the update.
GRISALES: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.