US Democrats come down to $2.2 trillion in new Covid proposal

US Democrats unveiled a $2.2 trillion relief bill Monday to help millions of Americans gutted by the coronavirus pandemic, trimming more than $1 trillion off their earlier version hoping to reach agreement with Republicans after months of stagnation.

In a deeply polarized Congress, the chances of reaching an agreement ahead of the November 3 election have sharply diminished in the past several weeks.

But the top Democrat in Washington, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Trump’s Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, were poised for a fresh round of negotiations.

The pair spoke briefly by telephone Monday evening “after House Democrats introduced an updated version of the Heroes Act,” Pelosi spokesman Drew Hamill said on Twitter. “The two agreed to speak again tomorrow morning.”

The new plan “provides the absolutely needed resources to protect lives, livelihoods and the life of our democracy over the coming months,” Pelosi told her Democratic caucus in a letter.

She said the measure includes new funding that would “avert catastrophe” for schools, small businesses, restaurants, performance spaces, airline workers and others.

Democrats, who hold the majority in the House of Representatives, in May passed a massive, $3.4 trillion aid package.

After calling for a “pause” in aid in May, the Republicans relaunched new negotiations this summer but capped the bill at about $1 trillion.

Facing business shutdowns that caused mass layoffs, Congress passed the $2.2 trillion CARES Act in March, which included a program of loans and grants for small firms, a moratorium on evictions, as well as extra weekly payments of $600 to the unemployed. (AFP)