WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee and the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, this morning joined MSNBC to discuss the ongoing negotiations regarding the next relief package. 

“We've known that unemployment insurance, that the eviction moratorium were going to run out last week. We've known that for months. So, to wait until tens of millions of people, the 30 million people who are relying on that extra $600 a week, to wait until that had expired, to wait until the eviction moratorium had expired to begin negotiating in earnest strikes me as just cruel and irresponsible,” said Senator Coons.

“One of the areas where there's been bipartisan agreement is that we should do another round of the PPP, the Paycheck Protection Program, that we should do a round two, using some of the funds already appropriated that haven't been expended, targeting those smaller businesses that have taken heavy revenue losses. That is one thing I think we've largely come to agreement on,” said Senator Coons.

Audio and video available here

Excerpts from the interview:

What are the odds that a deal will be made by Friday?

Sen. Coons: At best 50/50, and I hate to have to share that news with you, because I know there are tens of millions of Americans who are hanging on every piece of news coming out of here, eager to hear that we have reached some appropriate deal. There are tens of millions of Americans who face eviction from their homes, who have already lost the unemployment insurance supplement that we passed months ago in the CARES Act. There are anxious parents wondering if their kids can or should go to schools that might or might not safely reopen. There are states where the delay for testing is too long and there are hundreds of millions of Americans intent on voting this fall who are wondering if they’re going to be able to do so safely. So, there are lots of topics on which we should be delivering a bipartisan solution to the big challenges facing our country, but for reasons I can't fathom, the White House continues to block progress, even though they are negotiating now hours and hours at a time, Speaker Pelosi, Minority Leader Schumer, the Treasury Secretary, Mark Meadows, President Trump's Chief of Staff, they have made some progress, but getting to a topline number and making progress on all of the issues I just mentioned – making sure that we are addressing job loss, hunger, hospitals, public health, elections, national service – we are not making progress fast enough.

What are your thoughts regarding Majority Leader McConnell’s comments about the timeline for negotiations this morning and his defense of his decision to take this up in the last few weeks despite the House passing a bill back in May? 

Sen. Coons: Frankly, that is a poor excuse for why Republicans weren't willing to come to the table to begin negotiations. It's really just this week that negotiations have begun in earnest between the White House and Republicans and Democrats here in Congress, and we've seen the coronavirus pandemic surging all over this country for weeks now. We've known that unemployment insurance, that the eviction moratorium were going to run out last week. We've known that for months. So, to wait until tens of millions of people, the 30 million people who are relying on that extra $600 a week, to wait until that had expired, to wait until the eviction moratorium had expired to begin negotiating in earnest strikes me as just cruel and irresponsible. But, let me try to be optimistic. I'm on the Small Business Committee. One of the areas where there's been a bipartisan agreement is that we should do another round of the PPP, the Paycheck Protection Program, that we should do a round two, using some of the funds already appropriated that haven't been expended, targeting those smaller businesses that have taken heavy revenue losses. That is one thing I think we've largely come to agreement on, but on aid to state and local governments, where there's already been 1.5 million public employees laid off, there's zero still in the Republican proposal. I'm hoping they'll make progress, just a reminder, these aren't faceless bureaucrats in gray buildings. We're talking about teachers, paramedics, police officers, the folks who administer unemployment assistance, and if we have local and state governments as I’m hearing from Delaware that are facing big revenue crunches, to go home without having addressed that would be a big mistake. On postal, I've gotten calls up and down the state of Delaware from folks complaining about the slowdown in mail delivery, delays in mail delivery, and Leader Schumer demanded a meeting with the Postmaster General yesterday to get an answer as to why, when we appropriated an extra $10 billion months ago in the CARES Act, why there seems to be a slowing down of mail delivery around the country. I'm gravely concerned about the slowdown in the census and the slowdown in the Postal Service, and what that might mean for our election and for reapportionment this fall. 

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