White House, U.S. Congress Democrats to continue effort on coronavirus aid

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Top White House officials and Democratic leaders in the U.S. Congress will try again on Tuesday to narrow gaping differences over a fifth major coronavirus-aid bill to help stimulate the economy and possibly dispatch new aid to the unemployed.

Several days of closed-door negotiations have so far yielded few results, according to the participants.

“We’re making some progress on certain issues,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters after Monday’s talks. “There are a lot of issues that are still outstanding.”

Chicago Federal Reserve Bank President Charles Evans on Monday urged Congress and the White House to agree to more federal spending to help the economy, which has seen tens of millions of people lose jobs.

“The punch line ought to be, ‘the ball is in Congress’ court.’ Fiscal policy is really fundamental for getting us going forward,” Evans told reporters in a phone call.

Schumer, House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows have been trying for a breakthrough in talks that largely have focused on Democrats’ call for renewing an “enhanced” unemployment benefit of $600 per week that expired on Friday.

Republicans have proposed reductions, saying $600 — on top of state benefits — discourages people from taking lower-paying jobs.

Meanwhile, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham offered a plan to cover 100% of the jobless workers’ previous wages.

“I don’t like it but for a short period of time I would buy it,” Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley told reporters.

Even if Republicans and Democrats can agree on jobless benefits, plenty of differences remain, including whether to extend a moratorium on housing evictions and Democrats’ demand for around $1 trillion in aid to state and local governments suffering revenue shortfalls as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

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