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Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey called another round of direct payments to Americans “about the least efficient way you can help people and help the economy” – but also said the measure alone wouldn’t prevent him from voting for a coronavirus relief bill.
“That is not in and of itself a complete deal killer for me,” Toomey said in an interview with NBC 10. “But it definitely is an inefficient, impractical way to deal with this problem because so much money is going to go to people who don’t need it.”
The latest bill, which was still under negotiation Thursday evening, is expected to include direct payments of about $600 per adult, with no money allocated for children – unlike the $1,200 per adult payments that went out earlier this year along with $500 for each child.
Some members of Congress – including Senator Bernie Sanders – have been pushing for larger checks.
“Put it this way. I would like for it to be larger but I hope to be able to get done what we can,” Rep. Dwight Evans (D-PA) said. “Remember this is a bridge, President-Elect Biden said that he would come with another stimulus program when he becomes president on January 20. So we need to do this measure right now, then we’ll move toward the future.”
Congressional leaders have been working on a relief bill in the hopes of coming to a deal before members go back to their home district on Friday. On Thursday, Senate leaders from both parties said they would stay until a deal is done, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell alerting senators it was “highly likely” they would work through the weekend.
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Toomey said another relief bill should be targeted to those who have been hurt by the pandemic, but the direct payments will also go to those who have not been financially harmed.
“There’s people who are out of work, there's people who are definitely in bad financial circumstances,” Toomey said. “But someone who’s – a double income family who never had the slightest interruption of their income? Why are we sending them $1,200?”
The bill is also expected to include $300 per week in additional unemployment funds, plus money for rental assistance, and to help businesses.
While restaurants have lobbied for some specific assistance to help struggling eateries, Toomey said he thinks the better approach is to expand the Paycheck Protection Program to help both restaurants and other businesses. This bill may allow them to use the PPP money, which are loans that could be forgiven, for equipment and supplies.
“Hotels, the travel industry entertainment venues, everybody in all of those categories – almost everybody in all of those categories – is in desperate shape,” Toomey said.
As the first coronavirus vaccines are being administered around the country, Toomey said the proposal is also expected to include funding to help distribute vaccines after a previous allotment of funds runs out.
“The highest immediate priority is to make sure the distribution of the vaccine, the COVID vaccine, goes out smoothly without any hiccups, without any interruptions,” Toomey said. “We have already funded the first distribution, that’s why you saw trucks hitting the road literally within hours of the FDA approval that’s because the funding was all there, the logistics were all in place.”