As the odds of a second COVID-19 relief bill dwindles, indignation has mounted.

Relief for COVID-19

Congressman Tom O’Halleran issued a statement saying he’s “outraged” by the Republican Senate’s refusal to respond to House Democrat’s passage of a second, $3.4 trillion COVID-19 stimulus bill that would extend unemployment and other benefits.

Congressman Tom O’Halleran issued a statement saying he’s “outraged” by the Republican Senate’s refusal to respond to House Democrat’s passage of a second, $3.4 trillion COVID-19 stimulus bill that would extend unemployment benefits, provide help for schools and local government, provide a second $1,200 check for every taxpayer and support other programs to cope with the pandemic.

Senate Republicans did not pass a bill of their own before the House and Senate went on recess to hit the campaign trail.

Reportedly, the Senate leadership is circulating a new version of its $1 trillion counter-offer. The Senate version would trim the enhanced maximum unemployment benefit to $200 from the current $600, according to media reports. The proposal earmarks most of the new money for businesses impacted by the closures and loss of customers. Reportedly, the new version drops the $1,200 payments to individual taxpayers, with little bailout money for schools or local governments.

O’Halleran, in a prepared statement, said “the Senate has now had 78 days to act. Senate leadership has let the clock tick down to the very last minute in the hope of forcing the hand of Congressional leadership on whatever package they put forth, instead of debating and coming to a compromise on the (Democratic passed) Heroes Act. Now families are being kicked off their extended unemployment, are continuing to lose their jobs and healthcare due to no fault of their own, struggling to put food on the table, and are operating under immense and ever-changing, day-to-day stress, wondering if their kids will be forced to attend in-person schooling before it is safe. We are well past politics. We need a deal for American families now.”

O’Halleran is facing a strong challenge from Pinal County rancher Tiffany Shedd, who won a hard-fought primary in the District 1 seat, which includes all of the White Mountains. O’Halleran was one of the few Democrats in the nation who won a congressional seat also won by President Donald Trump. It’s considered one of the swing seats in determining party control the House of Representatives.

Shedd blasted O’Halleran’s criticism of Senate Republicans. “Tom O’Halleran’s statement is exactly what is wrong with Washington politicians. Arizonians are suffering during the pandemic and we deserve better than Tom O’Halleran standing in lockstep with Nancy Pelosi and refusing to back away from a bill that liberal members of Congress have described as a ‘Democratic Wish List’ and ‘dead on arrival’ while blaming others.”

She added, “when Senate Democrats rejected Senator McSally’s effort to extend the $600 unemployment benefit, Tom O’Halleran was nowhere to be heard, but now he’s trying to score political points.”

Democrats passed a second, $3.4 trillion package almost three months ago, which included $1 trillion for local government and schools. Days before the enhanced benefits expired, Sen. McSally and others proposed a short term extension of just the jobless benefits, but Democrats rejected the proposal saying Congress should adopt a comprehensive package.

The talks ultimately broke down with the two sides still far apart. Key disagreements included the extension of the full, enhanced unemployment benefit, which Republicans feared would give people an incentive not to return to work. The enhanced benefit boosted the maximum weekly unemployment benefit in Arizona from about $240 per week to about $840 per week, which meant low income workers could make more money on unemployment than by working.

President Donald Trump issued a series of executive orders when the House and Senate negotiations broke down. The orders used federal money for disaster relief funding to offer a short-term, $300 per-week extension of the enhanced jobless benefits. He also said businesses for the next several months don’t need to collect the roughly 15% payroll tax for Social Security and Medicare, although businesses and employees will likely still have to pay the amount owed next year, prompting some legal experts to question the legality and impact of the order.

The latest Republican proposal reportedly provides less money and fewer compromises than were included in the measure House Democrat negotiators have already rejected.

Peter Aleshire covers county government and other topics for the Independent. He is the former editor of the Payson Roundup. Reach him at paleshire@payson.com

(6) comments

suebingham

It is so frustrating to see the well-being of Americans being used as a political football. All of them -- McConnell, Pelosi, McSally, Sinema, and O'Halleran should do something.

sensible

The whole problem stems from Moscow Mitch and the republican senate!! They don't care about anything but themselves and that is a fact. Maybe they all of them should take a gigantic deduction in the monies they get for doing nothing to help Americans.

ronzim

O.K. Sue. What?

suebingham

Pass a decent 2nd stimulus package, of course -- starting with reinstating the $600 addition to unemployment benefits. Providing a second round of $1200 per person emergency assistance would go a long ways for helping those who are currently experiencing food insecurity.

They know what they need to do (hint: deferring payroll taxes ain't it); they just aren't doing it.

Thank you for asking.

Vtrone

Here we have republican candidate for congress, Tiffany Shedd maintaining, like republican Donald Trump and the republican senate that in the time of a national pandemic disaster with all time record high unemployment numbers,that $600 dollars is too much money to appropriate for relief of America's unemployed workers and their families. Apperantly Tiffany Shedd is a rancher, and like most farmers and ranchers there exist dozens of government run programs that either directly or indirectly help them go through tough times.Take note, the republican party falsely calls government run programs that help America's workers, ranchers and farmers in hard times as "Socialism." The irony is that republican candidate Tiffany Shedd also throws her support for the Trump administration which has called for major cuts in the federal crop insurance program and the federal drought disaster program in fiscal year 2021. Since senate republicans are a rubber stamp for Trump policies and candidate Shedd supports their agenda, then one can only conclude that she is either naive,ignorant or just doesn't care as long as she gets elected. "It is what it is."

ronzim

Sue: Now that's more like it.[beam][thumbup]

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