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Idaho senators: Stimulus still taking shape

by CRAIG NORTHRUP
Staff Writer | December 4, 2020 1:09 AM

With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to cripple the world’s economies, Congress continues to explore a second economic stimulus package.

Senators representing Idaho in Washington, D.C., say the next round of stimulus is coming, but what that package will look like is unknown.

Recent iterations of stimulus legislation include a bipartisan effort initially introduced by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) that would provide $908 billion in relief funding. Less than half of April’s $2.2 trillion CARES Act package, this proposal would include $300 in additional weekly unemployment benefits for those who qualify, $288 billion in small business relief — including a refueling of the Paycheck Protection Program — $82 billion in education support and $25 billion in rental and housing assistance, among other provisions.

But while Manchin’s proposal has gained traction from both Republicans and Democrats, Idaho Sen. Jim Risch said "the chances of it going any further aren’t that good.”

Risch said Congress was far more likely to see some version of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s $500 billion package — which includes funding for the PPP, education support, testing and contact tracing — does not include the $300-per-week unemployment boost.

Lindsay Nothern said Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo is eagerly awaiting a compromise on a stimulus package and looks forward to voting in favor of responsible relief.

“Sen. Crapo will be supportive of a stimulus once they can reach a compromise on it,” the communications director for Crapo’s office said.

Some Senate Democrats are calling McConnell’s $500 billion package a non-starter and saying Manchin’s $908 billion is a good starting base number in negotiations.

“The problem has been, the Democrats and Republicans haven’t agreed on the size of the package,” Nothern said. “That’s something that’s been holding this process up for some time.”

Neither McConnell’s nor Manchin’s proposals include another key selling point: per-household economic impact checks like the $1,200-per-qualifying-adult checks many Americans received from the CARES Act. Nothern said one big reason economic impact checks were absent with this go-around stem from a different kind of relief he believes is just around the corner.

“Due to the fact that we’re hopefully winding down with the vaccines coming,” he said, “the Republicans don’t want to spend a ton of money. Sen. Crapo will support whatever we can get for a compromise.”

Risch said he believes an end to the COVID-19 pandemic is within reach.

“Somewhere between 25 million to 50 million Americans will be vaccinated by the end of this year," he said. "And every month after, a minimum of 20 million people will get vaccinated … By Memorial Day, this thing’s going to be in the history books.”