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US lawmakers unveil 2-part $908 bn Covid-19 relief package

A bipartisan group of US lawmakers has unveiled a two-part $908 billion coronavirus relief package as many Americans are set to lose pandemic relief benefits by the end of the year.

“Today I was joined by 12 bipartisan, bicameral colleagues to introduce two bills that provide $908 billion in emergency relief, along with commonsense liability protection. I urge leadership to put these bills up for a vote,” Xinhua news agency quoted Joe Manchin, a Democratic senator from West Virginia and one of the bipartisan negotiators, as saying in on Twitter on Monday.

The relief package is split into two parts: a bill that outlines a wide range of relief spending totalling $748 billion, and another piece that provides $160 billion to state and local governments with Covid-19-related liability protections, according to Manchin.

It is not clear whether the Democratic and Republican leadership will take up these bipartisan bills amid differences over liability protections and funding for state and local governments.

During a phone conversation with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Monday night, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi “reiterated Democrats’ concerns about the liability provisions, which remain an obstacle to securing state and local funding”, according to her spokesman and deputy chief of staff Drew Hammill.

“If, however, there is insufficient support, which appears to be the case, for including liability protection and state aid, Congress must pass the remainder of pandemic relief package developed by the bipartisan working group,” US Chamber of Commerce Executive Vice President and Chief Policy Officer Neil Bradley said on Monday in a statement.

“Partial agreement is better than no agreement,” Bradley added.

“Failing to pass the remaining pieces of the pandemic package risks the permanent loss of tens of thousands of small businesses, financial hardship for millions of Americans, and unnecessary delays in combating the pandemic.”

Despite an unabated Covid-19 resurgence across the country, Democratic and Republican lawmakers have been deadlocked for months over the size and scope of the next relief package.

Without a new relief package, many Americans will soon lose their unemployment benefits and begin to face hardships like eviction and foreclosure by the end of the year.

“These bills are truly a Christmas miracle, but it shouldn’t take a miracle for Congress to do its job. I urge my colleagues to pass these bills and to keep this bipartisan spirit going into the new year and beyond,” Manchin said.