McConnell expects another stimulus
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Wednesday there will likely be another stimulus measure to help businesses and others hurt by the coronavirus, but it won’t be the “unserious” proposal offered by House Democrats.
“I can tell you confidently it won’t be $3 trillion,” the Kentucky Republican leader told reporters during a press conference in Winchester. “That bill is not going anywhere.”
“I predict the next package will be more contentious than the last one as we’re four months closer to the election,” he said.
He said he expects work to begin in the Republican-led Senate within the next few weeks.
McConnell introduced and led passage of the $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which was signed into law by President Donald Trump March 27. It provided direct payments to individuals and families as well as “forgivable” loans for small businesses to keep workers on their payrolls.
The emergency legislation came after the spread of the deadly coronavirus led state and local governments, with support of the federal government, to temporarily shut down sectors of the economy to keep from infecting workers and customers.
McConnell said the Payroll Protection Program has so far benefited 48,000 small businesses in Kentucky with $5.2 billion in loans, which don’t have to be paid back as long as the businesses meet the criteria.
The CARES Act was the largest government rescue of the economy in U.S. history, he said.
But it came with a large price tag.
“We now have a national debt the size of our economy for the first time since World War II, which is not insignificant,” the senator said.
McConnell said the program was a “huge success,” and that is borne out by the recent rise in employment.
“You have to believe that pumping all that money into the economy helped to bring it back quickly,” he said.
But the reopening of the economy and people refusing to take precautions has caused the number of viral infections to soar in many states.
“Our biggest threat now to the economy is that COVID is surging again in certain parts of our country,” he said. “We can’t shut down the economy again. We don’t have that much borrowing capacity to continue to prop up the economy much longer.”
McConnell said his thinking on what form the next stimulus should take is that it should be specifically designed to address schools and children, jobs and health care.
In addition to loans, he said it’s possible a new stimulus bill will include direct payments as the last one did, especially targeted toward those who earn less than $40,000 annually, which includes many in the hospitality industry — restaurant and hotel workers who were especially hit hard by the partial lockdown.
McConnell also reiterated that he wants the bill to include liability protection for businesses, hospitals, doctors, schools, colleges and universities.
“No one should have to face an epidemic of lawsuits on the heels of a pandemic,” he said. “We are not going to rewrite the tort laws for every state in America. This will be narrowly crafted for this particular disease.”
The senator was in Winchester to announce Clark County’s inclusion in a federal drug task force program and to talk about the coronavirus and the economy. After leaving Winchester, he visited Sterling Health Care in Mount Sterling to meet with and thank health care workers for their service and talk with them about the CARES Act.