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Dialogue Resumes on Virus Relief Bill  08/03 06:09

   Slow, grinding negotiations on a huge COVID-19 relief bill are set to 
resume, but the path forward promises to be challenging. Both the Trump 
administration negotiating team and top Capitol Hill Democrats reported 
progress over the weekend even as they highlighted their differences.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- Slow, grinding negotiations on a huge COVID-19 relief 
bill are set to resume, but the path forward promises to be challenging. Both 
the Trump administration negotiating team and top Capitol Hill Democrats 
reported progress over the weekend even as they highlighted their differences.

   Ahead of Monday's talks, all sides predict a long slog ahead despite the 
lapse of a $600-per-week supplemental COVID-19 jobless benefit, the beginning 
of school season and the call of lawmakers' cherished August recess. Several 
more days of talks are expected, if not more.

   The White House is seeking opportunities to boost President Donald Trump, 
like another round of $1,200 stimulus payments and extending the supplemental 
jobless benefit and partial eviction ban. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the top 
Democratic negotiator, appears intent on an agreement as well, but she's made 
it clear she needs big money for state and local governments, unemployment 
benefits and food aid.

   Appearances by the principal negotiators on Sunday's news shows featured 
continued political shots by White House chief of staff Mark Meadows at Pelosi 
for turning down a one-week extension of the $600 benefit in talks last week.

   Meadows, however, is understaffed during the talks and seems to struggle 
with his read on Pelosi. He spent much of his time on CBS' "Face The Nation" 
attacking her for opposing a piecemeal approach that would revive jobless 
benefits immediately but leave other items like food stamps and aid to states 
for later legislation. She is insisting on a complete package.

   Areas of agreement already include the $1,200 direct payment and changes to 
the Paycheck Protection Program to permit especially hard-hit businesses to 
obtain another loan under generous forgiveness terms.

   But the terms and structure of the unemployment benefit remains a huge 
sticking point, negotiators said Sunday, and Meadows hasn't made any 
concessions on the almost $1 trillion Pelosi wants for state and local 
governments grappling with pandemic-related revenue losses.

   "We still have a long ways to go," Meadows said, adding, "I'm not optimistic 
that there will be a solution in the very near term."

   Pelosi said she'd consider reducing the $600 benefit for states with lower 
unemployment rates. Republicans want to cut the benefit to encourage 
beneficiaries to return to work and say it is bad policy since it pays many 
jobless people more money than they made at their previous jobs.

   "But in this agreement it's $600," Pelosi said on ABC's 'This Week.'' "Yes, 
they might anecdotally have examples, but the fact is, is that they're 
subjecting somebody who gets $600 to scrutiny they won't subject some of the 
people that are getting millions of dollars" through the loan program for small 
businesses that keep employees on their payrolls.

   Another sticking point is that Republicans want to give more school aid to 
systems that are restarting with in-school learning, even as Dr. Deborah Birx, 
Trump's top coronavirus adviser, cautioned that schools in areas with spikes in 
cases should delay reopening

   "In the areas where we have this widespread case increase, we need to stop 
the cases, and then we can talk about safely reopening," Birx said on "This 
Week."

   The House passed a $3.5 trillion measure in May, but Republicans controlling 
the Senate have demanded a slower approach, saying it was necessary to take a 
"pause" before passing additional legislation. Since they announced that 
strategy, however, coronavirus caseloads have spiked and the economy has 
absorbed an enormous blow.

 
 
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