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Progressives ramp up calls for increased unemployment insurance, direct payments

Progressives ramp up calls for increased unemployment insurance, direct payments
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Progressives stepped up their calls for the next coronavirus relief package to include ramped up unemployment insurance and direct payments to Americans as Congress looks to cobble together a package. 

In a letter to House and Senate leadership, the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) said the unemployment benefits should last six months and the stimulus checks should total $2,000. The letter was sent Saturday but published Tuesday after it was announced that Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiMissouri woman seen with Pelosi sign charged in connection with Capitol riots Boebert communications director resigns amid Capitol riot: report Revising the pardon power — let the Speaker and Congress have voices MORE (D-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellBoebert communications director resigns amid Capitol riot: report Urgency mounts for new voting rights bill Senate Democrats leery of nixing filibuster MORE (R-Ky.), Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerBiden and the new Congress must protect Americans from utility shutoffs 'Almost Heaven, West Virginia' — Joe Manchin and a 50-50 Senate Democrats looking to speed through Senate impeachment trial MORE (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthySasse, in fiery op-ed, says QAnon is destroying GOP Democrats seize on GOP donor fallout Boebert communications director resigns amid Capitol riot: report MORE (R-Calif.) would meet Tuesday evening. 

Current negotiations have thus far been fruitless, but momentum on Capitol Hill has been driven by a bipartisan, bicameral, two-part plan totaling about $908 billion. However, progressives have railed against the proposal, noting it does not include stimulus payments and that it doesn’t include enough unemployment insurance. 

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The CPC demanded that the next package include “funding to provide for at least six months of unemployment insurance (UI) in addition to direct cash payments, to ensure that meaningful relief reaches Americans who need it most. This type of direct assistance has proven to be critical to lifting people out of poverty and have been among the most effective programs to address the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The letter from the CPC, which was signed by 17 of its members, underscored the litany of aspects congressional leaders will have to weigh in crafting an agreement.

Two of the largest stumbling blocks have been funding for state and local governments, pushed for by Democrats, and liability protections for small businesses from coronavirus-related lawsuits, favored by Republicans.

But progressives, joined by some conservatives, have made another round of stimulus payments a top priority as well. Sens. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSenate Democrats leery of nixing filibuster 'Almost Heaven, West Virginia' — Joe Manchin and a 50-50 Senate Biden to seek minimum wage in COVID-19 proposal MORE (I-Vt.) and Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleySasse, in fiery op-ed, says QAnon is destroying GOP Democratic super PAC targets Hawley, Cruz in new ad blitz Hotel cancels Hawley fundraiser after Capitol riot: 'We are horrified' MORE (R-Mo.) have joined forces to advocate for the inclusion of the checks.

Pressure has ramped up on Congress to reach an agreement as COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths across the country skyrocket and as the economy’s slow recovery shows signs of stumbling.

Congress passed the $2.2 trillion CARES Act in March, which included $1,200 stimulus checks for some Americans and increased unemployment benefits, though those benefits have expired, and no substantial legislation has been agreed on since.