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White House eyes 1 trln USD for next COVID-19 relief bill: official

Xinhua | Updated: 2020-07-08 09:37
A store advertises a sale on July 7, 2020 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. [Photo/Agencies]

WASHINGTON - The White House expects the next COVID-19 relief bill to cost about 1 trillion US dollars and wants Congress to pass the legislation by the first week in August, a top aide to US Vice President Mike Pence said on Tuesday.

"There's obviously been a lot of stimulus put in the system over the last couple bills, and so the price tag for us would be that," Marc Short, chief of staff to Pence, said in an interview with Bloomberg Radio.

"I think we want to make sure that people that are still unemployed or hurting are protected but at the same time, we want to take into consideration the fact the economy is bouncing back and want to try to contain the amount of spending," he said.

US Congress has provided roughly 2.9 trillion dollars in fiscal support for households, businesses, healthcare providers, and state and local governments, to blunt the economic impact resulted from the pandemic.

But the resurgence of COVID-19 cases across the country is threatening to derail the nascent economic recovery as many states have either paused or partially reversed their staged reopenings.

US lawmakers are expected to begin formally negotiating a fifth COVID-19 relief bill once they return to Washington from a two-week break on July 20, according to local media.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, said on Monday that he believed a fifth bill would be necessary and that he would introduce legislation in a few weeks.

"If you're looking for what I think the theme of what a next package that I'm likely to roll out here in a few weeks would focus on: liability reform, kids in school, jobs and health care, that's where the focus, it seems to me, ought to be," McConnell said.

The House of Representatives in May had passed a new 3-trillion-dollar coronavirus relief package, but it was proposed by Democrats and was not likely to gain approval from the Republican-held Senate.

More than 100 economists last month urged US Congress to immediately pass a "multifaceted relief bill of a magnitude commensurate with the challenges our economy faces" as the COVID-19 fallout continues to ripple through the country.

"If Congress fails to act, state and local governments face potentially disastrous budget shortfalls, and the Congressional Budget Office estimates the unemployment rate will likely be more than 11 percent at the end of the year," they warned, adding "insufficiently bold congressional policy responses to the Great Recession" after the 2008 financial crisis unnecessarily prolonged suffering and stunted economic growth.

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