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Stimulus checks, cuts in unemployment aid appear likely in new stimulus package

“We’re talking about the same provision as last time, so our proposal is the exact same proposal as last time,” Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said of a second round of stimulus checks.

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Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin walks over to speak with reporters about the coronavirus relief package negotiations, at the White House, Thursday, July 23, 2020, in Washington.

Evan Vucci, Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY — The White House and Senate Republican leaders say they’ve reached agreement on their vision for the next pandemic stimulus package Thursday, just days before unemployment aid is scheduled to expire and as jobless claims rose to 1.4 million last week.

The $1 trillion GOP offer, which hasn’t been finalized, would significantly pare down the $3 trillion emergency aid bill that passed the House in May. One of the major differences would be an expected steep drop in unemployment aid in the Senate GOP proposal. But both proposals include another round of $1,200 economic impact payments for many Americans.

“We’re talking about the same provision as last time, so our proposal is the exact same proposal as last time,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told reporters, The Hill reported.

He was referring to the CARES Act that passed in March and provided $1,200 impact payments to taxpayers who made less than $75,000, while married couples who earned up to $150,000 received $2,400, based on their 2018 or 2019 taxes. Another $500 per child was included for parents. Smaller, prorated stimulus checks were sent to earners that made more.

The Republican version of the bill is not expected to extend a weekly $600 supplement to regular unemployment insurance payments for Americans who lost their jobs when the pandemic shut down large swaths of the economy, The Associated Press reported. A much smaller amount, likely $200, would be included in the Senate bill. The new rate is expected to be adjusted for each state’s average jobless benefit.

Extending the unemployment insurance benefits in its current form has been a sticking point between parties. Some Republicans have argued that a $600 weekly unemployment enhancement exceeds the wages of low incomes workers and discourages people from finding employment, but there is no evidence to back up this claim, according to a Brookings Institute report and research by other economists.

The GOP proposal to reduce temporary unemployment benefits came as national employment claims rose from $1.3 million to $1.4 million last week, and unemployment claims rose in states that induced tighter lockdowns amid escalating coronavirus cases, according to The Wall Street Journal.

A White House proposal to add a payroll tax cut won’t be in a new relief bill, The Washington Post reported, but $105 billion for reopening schools will be.

“Let me just remind people: the time-sensitive issue we’re talking about is next Friday on unemployment and schools,” Mnuchin said, according to Politico. “Some of this stuff, if it takes us a couple of weeks to work with the Democrats and agree on all the pieces we can,”

Coronavirus cases in American reached 4 million Friday, The New York Times reported, with 39 states, the capital and two territories reporting a rise in COVID-19 cases.