• Congressional talks over a second stimulus bill have reached a stalemate, with leaders from both major parties stuck over one major aspect of the legislation — an extension of increased unemployment aid.
  • There’s broad agreement over the other major piece of a coronavirus stimulus package, that being a new round of $1,200 stimulus payments sent out to most Americans.
  • However, the increased $600/week in unemployment aid has now expired, and Republican leaders don’t want to re-up the funding at that same level.

If you’d have asked me early on what I thought would be the biggest sticking point between the two parties as Congress tries to pass a second stimulus bill, something the country desperately needs as we enter what health experts say is a new chapter of the coronavirus pandemic, I might have guessed it would be the prospect of new stimulus checks. But no, as things stand now on this first Monday of August — some six months after the coronavirus outbreak began in the US — both parties are more or less on board with the idea of sending out a new wave of $1,200 stimulus checks to most Americans. That’s a major component of the new stimulus bill that’s been introduced in Congress, so what gives? Why has Congress been stuck for more than a week now trying to make progress on a new bill, with little progress to show for it thus far?

The answer: Unemployment aid.

GOP leaders ranging from White House chief of staff Mark Meadows to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, as well as Senate Republicans, are adamantly opposed to the idea of re-upping the $600/week in extra unemployment benefits that Americans have been getting for months now as a result of the coronavirus throwing many millions of Americans out of work.

That benefit has now expired as of the end of July, meaning the monthly income of millions of jobless people in the US has now shrunk by $2,400.

On ABC’s This Week on Sunday, Democratic House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi laid the blame for the deadlock at the feet of President Trump and Republicans who are pushing for the extra $600/week benefit to be scaled down to $200.

“We’ve been for the $600,” Pelosi said. “They have a $200 proposal, which does not meet the needs of America’s working families, and it’s a condescension, quite frankly. They’re saying, ‘They really don’t need it. They’re just staying home because they make more money at $600.'”

Mnuchin was on the same ABC program after Pelosi, and he said the reason both sides are at odds over the prospect of extending an unemployment aid increase is that Republicans are concerned about the cost. “There’s obviously a need to support workers, support the economy,” Mnuchin said. “On the other hand, we have to be careful about not piling on enormous amounts of debt.”

The GOP talking point has been that some people are deciding to not seek new employment because the unemployment aid pays them more than they would make otherwise. “There are cases where people are overpaid,” Mnuchin said. And it’s for that reason that there likely won’t be a coronavirus stimulus deal anytime soon, with Meadows agreeing it looks like the status quo in regards to a stalemate will stay in place for the time being.

Andy is a reporter in Memphis who also contributes to outlets like Fast Company and The Guardian. When he’s not writing about technology, he can be found hunched protectively over his burgeoning collection of vinyl, as well as nursing his Whovianism and bingeing on a variety of TV shows you probably don’t like.