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Senate poised to move forward on new coronavirus relief bill later this month

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Washington — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell indicated the upper chamber will move forward on another coronavirus response bill later this month amid concerns over the nearing expiration date of additional unemployment benefits and the difficulties of reopening schools as states across the country see a spike in COVID-19 cases.

McConnell outlined the Republican priorities for the next phase of legislation in a press conference in Louisville, Kentucky, on Monday, emphasizing that a "number one" priority in any bill would be liability protections for businesses and health care institutions. McConnell said that liability protections are necessary so people who "acted in good faith during this crisis are not confronted with a second epidemic of lawsuits in the wake of the pandemic that we're already struggling with."

"Unless you were grossly negligent or intentionally engaging in harmful conduct, you should be protected from liability during this process," McConnell said.

McConnell also said that he believed "kids need to be back in school" in the fall. The Trump administration has urged schools and universities to reopen, and President Trump said Tuesday that he is "going to be putting a lot of pressure on open the schools in the fall."

"So if you're looking for what I think is a theme of a next package that I'm likely to roll out here in a few weeks, it would focus on liability reform, kids in school, jobs and health care," McConnell said Monday.

Earlier in the spring, Congress passed a series of bipartisan coronavirus relief bills, including a sweeping $2 trillion measure known as the CARES Act. House Democrats have proposed and passed an even more ambitious $3 trillion relief bill, which includes assistance to state and local governments, hazard pay for frontline health care workers, student debt forgiveness and bolstering Medicaid and Medicare. The Senate is unlikely to consider the legislation.

A main point of contention between Democrats and Republicans has been an extension of the $600 expansion of weekly unemployment insurance, which expires July 31. Republicans argue that the boost is a disincentive to work, as many people would be earning more on unemployment insurance than they would at their jobs. Democrats contend that people need the extra money during such a difficult time.

The administration has expressed support for another round of stimulus checks, which were included in the CARES Act passed in March. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has said the administration is "very seriously considering" pursuing another round of checks, and Republicans on Capitol Hill have likewise expressed support for the idea.

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