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Rep. Blunt Rochester pushes for direct payments in COVID-19 relief package

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So far the bipartisan plan for COVID relief from Congress leaves out direct payments to Americans. But one member of Delaware’s Congressional delegation wants to change that. 

Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester introduced a bill Tuesday that would give payments of $1,000 to every tax filer, plus $1,000 for each dependent. She hopes it could become part of a coronavirus relief package passed before additional unemployment benefits and an eviction moratorium run out at the end of the year.

Blunt Rochester says that’s important, since many Americans are struggling.

“They’re at risk of eviction,” she said. “Many of them have been food-insecure. Children are hungry. And we want to make sure that we get some relief in the hands of individuals and their families as soon as possible.”

Blunt Rochester introduced the bill with Rep. David McKinley, a Republican from West Virginia. She emphasizes its bipartisan support.

“Many people are talking about relief for families, but we wanted to have a concrete framework— a real bill— for people to be able to include in the package or as a standalone,” Blunt Rochester said. “It’s really a framework to prove to folks that democrats and republicans can come together in a common goal.”

Democrats negotiating the broader $908 billion relief package have said excluding direct payments is necessary to get the support of Senate Republicans, who are watching the bill’s overall price tag.

Blunt Rochester’s direct payments plan would likely cost an additional $200 billion. 

Its equal $1,000 payments to each tax filer and dependent mean that a couple filing jointly would receive $2,000, while a family of four would receive $4,000—$600 more than they would have received under the stimulus program that passed this spring. Under Blunt Rochester’s bill, families could receive support for adult dependents, such as those with disabilities, elderly relatives and college students. Single parents would receive more than they did this spring.

“It’s more focused on helping those families that need the money the most,” Blunt Rochester said.

Millions of Americans are expected to lose unemployment benefits at the end of this month when CARES Act provisions run out.

Sophia Schmidt is a Delaware native. She comes to Delaware Public Media from NPR’s Weekend Edition in Washington, DC, where she produced arts, politics, science and culture interviews. She previously wrote about education and environment for The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, MA. She graduated from Williams College, where she studied environmental policy and biology, and covered environmental events and local renewable energy for the college paper.
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