Rubio welcomes bipartisan COVID aid plan, however he desires extra for small companies

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Florida Sen. Marco Rubio praised the bipartisan effort to approve another COVID-19 relief bill unveiled Tuesday, but he warned it wasn’t enough for small businesses.

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A bipartisan group of lawmakers, which includes Senate centrists such as Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, and Susan Collins, R-Maine, are backing a $908 billion proposal that includes $228 billion to extend and upgrade paycheck protection subsidies for businesses. If approved, it would be the second round of relief to hard-hit businesses such as restaurants.

It would also revive a special jobless benefit, but at a reduced level of $300 per week rather than the $600 benefit enacted in March. State and local governments would receive $160 billion, and there also is money for vaccines.

“I applaud my colleagues for coming together to provide a COVID Relief Framework, including a much-needed second round of Paycheck Protection Program loans for small businesses,” said Rubio, chair of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, in a statement.

“However, it is important to note that at its current level, the proposal barely provides enough to fund a second round of Paycheck Protection Program loans, and does not provide sufficient funds to help small businesses, restaurants, entertainment venues, and others to help them weather the second wave,” Rubio added.

A second coronavirus relief package, following the CARES Act passed in March, has been held up in Congress for months. The Democratic-controlled House passed the $3.4 trillion HEROES Act in May, as well as a $2.2 trillion HEROES Act 2.0 in October. For its part, the Republican-controlled Senate has offered a $500 billion bill but not voted on it.

Talks between Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have been hobbled by President Trump’s repeated back and forth about whether he wanted more stimulus, as well as Pelosi balking at Republican proposals to give businesses immunity from COVID-19 liability.

Rubio blamed Democrats for holding “small businesses and their employees hostage for months, so I am encouraged that some of my Democratic colleagues are stepping forward to provide long-overdue assistance.”

U.S. Sen Rick Scott did not have a response to the proposal Tuesday afternoon.

On Monday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis weighed in, saying Congress “should have done a relief package months ago. The reason why a lot of people are unemployed is because of federal policies. … They’re the ones that caused [high unemployment] and so they should do relief.”

In Wilmington, Delaware, President-elect Joe Biden called on lawmakers to approve a down payment on COVID relief, though he cautioned that “any package passed in a lame-duck session is — at best — just a start.”

Earlier, larger versions of the proposal, presented as a framework with limited detail, were rejected by top leaders such as Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. But pressure is building as lawmakers face the prospect of heading home for the holidays without delivering aid to people in need.

“It’s not a time for political brinkmanship,” Manchin said. “Emergency relief is needed now more than ever before. The people need to know that we are not going to leave until we get something accomplished.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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