Money for schools, small business, individuals in next relief package: McConnell

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WASHINGTON D.C. (WTVQ) – Encouraging his Senate colleagues to “rise to the task one more time,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell outlined Tuesday a plan that would include $105 billion to help schools open and stay open this fall, a targeted second round of small business assistance, and more payments to Americans.

In a Senate floor speech, the Kentucky Republican said Congress needed to answer a call to provide more assistance as the country continues t struggle in the fight against the coronavirus.

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“Our nation stands at a crucial midway point in our battle against this terrible virus. … Communities across America put normal life on pause to buy breathing room for our medical system. We essentially had to winterize the world’s largest economy for weeks on end, and spare our people as much of the resulting pain as possible,” McConnell said in his statement.

“The virus that has claimed 140,000 American lives has not gone anywhere. As some places step back towards normalcy, infections are climbing again in hot spots across the country. The start of our economic recovery has been sharp and impressive. But in absolute terms, we have still just begun to pick up the pieces. Our progress so far has been encouraging, but it remains fragile and far from sufficient.

“I would argue that our country’s job now is even more complex than it was in March. Now, as then, we need to keep our health system robust. But now, instead of locking down the country to do it, we want to stand up a society that functions somewhat more normally at the same time,” he said.

“The American people cannot completely stop building their lives until a vaccine is available. The United States of America was not built for a defensive crouch. We need to stand up an educational system and an economy that works for workers and families in the meantime. We need to find the right middle ground that is smart and safe, but also more sustainable.

“This country wants its kids back in the classroom this fall – learning, exploring, making friends. Their educations depend on it. In some cases, their safety depends on it. And so do the livelihoods of working parents. The American Academy of Pediatrics stated unambiguously that our goal must be in-person instruction. But of course, parents, teachers, and doctors all agree that it has to be as safe as possible,” he continued, referring to $105 billion included in the initial proposal.

Noting the 17 million people nationwide who are receiving unemployment benefits, he said the nation’s job market needs a “shot of adrenaline” and outlined a proposal that targets hiring and retaining workers with legislation that will “help reimburse for safe workplaces, so that Main Street can afford the PPE, testing, cleaning, or remodeling to protect workers and entice customer.

“As I have said for months, the next recovery package will include strong legal protections for the healthcare workers who saved strangers’ lives and the schools, colleges, charities, and businesses that want to reopen. The American people will not see their historic recovery efforts gobbled up by trial lawyers who are itching to follow this pandemic with a second epidemic of frivolous lawsuits,” he said.

“Gross negligence will still be actionable, but we’re creating a safe harbor for institutions that make a good-faith effort to follow the guidelines available to them. Doctors and nurses clearly deserve this protection. And school districts, universities, nonprofits, and small businesses will need it, too, if we want any genuine reopening at all.”