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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 PelosiOvernight Defense: Military sexual assault reform bill has votes to pass in Senate l First active duty service member arrested over Jan. 6 riot l Israeli troops attack Gaza Strip Hillicon Valley: Colonial pipeline is back online, but concerns remain | Uber, Lyft struggle with driver supply | Apple cuts controversial hire Ocasio-Cortez on Taylor Greene: 'These are the kinds of people that I threw out of bars all the time' MORE (D-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOn The Money: Biden, Senate GOP take step toward infrastructure deal as other plans hit speed bumps Senate GOP to give Biden infrastructure counteroffer next week Masks shed at White House; McConnell: 'Free at last' MORE (R-Ky.), Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerBiden 'encouraged' by meeting with congressional leaders on infrastructure Republicans welcome the chance to work with Democrats on a bipartisan infrastructure bill Cheney sideshow distracts from important battle over Democrats' partisan voting bill MORE (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthyRoy to challenge Stefanik for Cheney's old position Stefanik shake-up jump-starts early jockeying for committee posts Why Cheney was toppled, and what it says about the GOP and Trump's claims 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 SandersStudy: Early unemployment cutoff would cost 16M people 0B Machine Gun Kelly reveals how Bernie Sanders aided him in his relationship with Megan Fox Overnight Health Care: CDC approves Pfizer vaccine for adolescents aged 12-15 | House moderates signal concerns with Pelosi drug pricing bill | Panel blasts COVID-19 response MORE (I-Vt.) and Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleyNYPD Asian Hate Crimes Task Force chief: Attacks are 'not new' More than 75 Asian, LGBTQ groups oppose anti-Asian crime bill Senate Commerce Committee advances Biden's FTC nominee Lina Khan 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.