WASHINGTON, July 27 (Xinhua) -- U.S. Senate Republicans released their 1-trillion-dollar COVID-19 relief proposal Monday afternoon, which includes a reduction in federal unemployment benefits, another round of 1,200-dollar direct payments to individuals, and liability protection for businesses and schools.
As part of the 2.2-trillion-dollar coronavirus relief bill passed in late March, Congress agreed to provide extra 600-dollar unemployment benefits per week, which are set to expire at the end of this month.
The Senate Republicans' plan would slash extra weekly unemployment benefits from 600 dollars to 200 dollars, which could be a key sticking point in negotiations with Democrats, who have wanted to maintain the level of benefits through January.
The White House and Republicans have contended that the 600-dollar benefits have created a financial disincentive for people to return to work, an argument refuted by some economists, who believe employers were not hiring because businesses were closed by stay-at-home orders or because they lacked demand from customers, and many people are ready to work regardless of how generous unemployment insurance is.
"Americans need to buy food & pay rent. Republicans shouldn't be quibbling over $600 for workers on unemployment," House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, said on Twitter.
The Democrat-controlled House passed a 3-trillion-dollar coronavirus relief package in May, but didn't gain approval from Republican-held Senate. Pelosi and other Democratic leaders have been blaming the Republicans for delays in rolling out their proposal.
U.S. lawmakers are under immense pressure to craft a new fiscal package as a resurgence of COVID-19 cases across the country threatens to derail the nascent economic recovery.
"Republicans have created a serious framework. The question is whether Democrats will come to the table in good faith," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, said on Twitter.