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LaHood, Durbin Say New COVID Relief Bill A Priority Before The Holidays

(AP Photo/Mark Tenally)

Republican Congressman Darin LaHood and Democratic U.S. Senator Dick Durbin seem to agree on at least one issue: another coronavirus relief package needs to be passed before the holidays.

But actually getting to a compromise that enough Democrats and Republicans can actually get behind is the challenge lawmakers face in the next week.

"The number one priority is getting this relief stimulus pacakge done," said LaHood. "And I'm committed to working with my colleagues to bring relief, particularly to our small businesses and restaurants, and people in the hospitality, travel and lodging industries, to bring them relief. And that's what we need to focus on in the next week." 

LaHood said he supports more Paycheck Protection Program funding for small businesses and liability protection for businesses operating during the pandemic.

"We need to have more funding to help those small businesses," he said. "Because many of those entities are not going to make it through the winter months unless we're there to help."

And LaHood said federal financial aid is needed for state and local governments.

"I look at cities like the City of Peoria," he said. "The last thing they ought to be doing is laying off firefighters and police officers and city workers because the federal government hasn't come through with resources to help them for revenue lost because of COVID. We haven't given enough money there yet. So I'm supportive of that," he said.

The Peoria Republican also backs an extra $200 to $300 in boosted unemployment benefits. That's less than the $600 offered in previous relief packages.

Durbin is calling on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to call a bipartisan $908 billion COVID-19 relief bill to the floor.

Congress last passed a COVID relief bill last spring. But negotations on a new bill are hitting roadblocks in the Senate.

"I hope we realize that this bipartisan effort put together by a group of senators that I've been honored to be a part of, is a good-faith effort to answer the basic questions of what is needed now in America, and what is needed on an emergency basis. It's a good bill. Far from perfect. It deserves a vote on the floor of the United States Senate," Durbin said.

Major sticking points remain: GOP demands for liability protections for businesses, and Democratic asks for financial assistance for state and local governments. McConnell proposed Tuesday to drop the liability issue if Democrats would cede on aid for governments, but Senate Democrats rejected that offer.

For his part, Durbin said he believes the liability issue should be tabled for now. But the so-called "908" compromise bill does include money for state and local governments, which didn't receive direct aid for revenue losses incurred in previous federal relief packages.

"To hold it back because of some other major issue that has not been resolved is unfair to American families, and workers, and students, and health workers. We owe it to them to do everything in our power to help them now," he said.

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Tim is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.