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Lawmakers Want To Get Americans More Relief Money. Here's What They Propose

"For Sale By Owner" and "Closed Due to Virus" signs are displayed in the window of Images On Mack in Grosse Pointe Woods, Mich. Congress is considering ways to help those struggling during the economic downturn and stabilize businesses hoping to reopen.
Paul Sancya
"For Sale By Owner" and "Closed Due to Virus" signs are displayed in the window of Images On Mack in Grosse Pointe Woods, Mich. Congress is considering ways to help those struggling during the economic downturn and stabilize businesses hoping to reopen.

Updated at 3:20 p.m. ET

Democrats and some Republicans are considering ways for the federal government to get money into people's pockets while the coronavirus is keeping much of the economy on ice.

Proposals for the next round of aid are being floated, and Democrats in the House are prepping another relief package as jobless claims continue to rise in the country. The Labor Department announced Friday that 20.5 million jobs were lost in April, pushing the overall unemployment rate to 14.7 %.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., hopes to release another bill, which is being crafted without the input of Republicans or the White House as early as next week.

"This is a reflection of the needs of the American people," Pelosi said Thursday. "We have to start someplace and, rather than starting in a way that does not meet the needs of the American people, want to set a standard."

The latest proposal from Sens. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Ed Markey D-Mass., is a plan for the federal government to provide $2,000 a month for every individual earning less than $120,000, including children and other dependents. The draft legislation would extend the payments until three months after the public health emergency is lifted.

The proposal is a vast expansion on the recovery rebate program that sent a one-time payment of $1,200 to every person earning less than $75,000 and an additional $500 for every child.

The trio of Democratic senators wants to make the payments, which would be available to every U.S. resident, retroactive to March. They didn't provide a cost estimate for the ambitious proposal, and it's unclear whether Senate leaders have an appetite for payments like these.

Official scorekeepers at the Congressional Budget Office estimate that the existing one-time $1,200 payment program in the CARES Act package enacted in March could cost around $300 billion. Republican leaders have signaled concerns with the growing cost of the relief bills that have already passed.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has called for a pause on any new aid.

"Let's see what we are doing that is succeeding, what is not succeeding, what needs less, what needs more," McConnell told reporters in April. "Let's weigh this very carefully because the future of our country in terms of the amount of debt that we are adding up is a matter of genuine concern."

Not all Republicans agree. Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., has introduced a comprehensive response plan that includes a proposal to cover 80 percent of payroll for companies that rehire workers and a bonus for the companies that take advantage of the program.

"The federal government should cover 80 percent of wages for workers at any U.S. business, up to the national median wage, until this emergency is over," Hawley wrote in an editorial in The Washington Post. "The goal must be to get unemployment down — now — to secure American workers and their families, and to help businesses get ready to restart as soon as possible."

Hawley's proposal would cap payments at the national median income level. The median income can be calculated in several different ways. Hawley told St. Louis Public radio the payments could be as high as $50,000. Other calculations set the figure at roughly $33,000, a level many Democrats say is not sufficient in higher-cost areas like cities.

House Progressive Caucus co-chair Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., has a separate version that would guarantee a worker's full salary up to $100,000 for three months. Jayapal's plan would automatically renew the payments on a monthly basis until consumer demand returns to precrisis levels.

The proposal has nearly two dozen co-sponsors but has not received an endorsement from party leadership.

Pelosi has not ruled out the possibility of including some minimum income payments in an upcoming coronavirus aid bill.

"We may have to think in terms of some different ways to put money in people's pockets," Pelosi said in an interview with MSNBC. "Let's see what works, what is operational and what needs other attention."

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Kelsey Snell is a Congressional correspondent for NPR. She has covered Congress since 2010 for outlets including The Washington Post, Politico and National Journal. She has covered elections and Congress with a reporting specialty in budget, tax and economic policy. She has a graduate degree in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. and an undergraduate degree in political science from DePaul University in Chicago.