BILLINGS- Funding for small businesses, unemployment, schools and local governments is about to run out nationwide as Congress continues to negotiate terms for a second round of COVID-19 stimulus relief funds.
However, Montana Republican U.S. Sen. Steve Daines believes lawmakers are close to reaching an agreement if they can get past bipartisan disagreements for how money should be allocated.
Daines spoke with MTN News Thursday afternoon from his Washington, D.C., office on a Zoom call. He discussed the importance of a second bill having much of the same relief as the first.
Money from the CARES Act, which Congress passed in March for coronavirus relief, is set to expire at the end of 2020. Many Americans, and especially Montanans, are anxiously waiting for specifics on a second bill.
“So you are going to see a lot of similar things that we saw from that March care package, I think,” said Daines. “The bottom line is this: We are going to take what worked in March and continue to invest there. What didn’t work, we won’t.”
In that first bill, Montana received $1.25 billion in federal dollars, which help businesses, local governments and workers hurt by the pandemic.
Daines says leaders in Washington, D.C., want to be able to offer that same security back to businesses as many continue to struggle through the economic impact of the pandemic.
Ingredients in the package include additional funding for small businesses and schools, personal protective equipment for health-care workers, money for hospitals, clinics and the postal service, said Daines.
However, when asked if individuals and families would see a check arrive in the mail, Daines says it’s unclear.
“That’s on the table,” he said, “That is something that both sides are looking at—I would guess that any bill that passes Congress would include some kind of stimulus check.”
A bipartisan group of moderate senators unveiled a $908 billion proposal Wednesday that is gaining traction, according to The Washington Post. While details have not been formalized, the plan would reportedly provide billions in relief for businesses, local government and healthcare workers, but it does not include a plan to send direct checks to certain taxpayers, according to The Post.
Daines says one of the reasons a stimulus bill is hung up in negotiations, a disagreement among Democrat and Republican lawmakers surrounding direct relief that would include bailout money to states already in debt from before the virus hit.