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Romney, Problem Solvers urge passage of $908 billion coronavirus bill

File: Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT). Photo courtesy of Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY  —  Talk of another COVID-19 relief package is back in the U.S. Senate, and one of Utah’s Senators is part of the driving force.  Sen. Mitt Romney is part of an informal group of congressional Republicans and Democrats calling themselves the Problem Solvers Caucus. 

The group includes U.S. Senators Mitt Romney (R-UT), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Susan Collins (R-ME), Mark Warner (D-VA), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Angus King (I-ME), and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and U.S. Representatives Gottheimer (D-NJ) and Tom Reed (R-NY).  The caucus met by phone on Thanksgiving Day to create a proposal for a $900 billion targeted economic stimulus package they hope to send to the Senate floor within the next two weeks.

Tuesday morning, members held a press conference from the U.S Senate.  Sen. Romney said the two political parties came to an impasse over as much as $500 billion in additional borrowing going to states and localities. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) have insisted on a multitrillion-dollar deal which Sen. Romney says doesn’t make sense.

“This is a crisis, we want to help people at this particular time and so we’ve come together and been very careful,” said Romney.

“This is not a $1.8 trillion stimulus bill.  This is a relief measure, half that amount – $908 billion. 

“I would note that of that fund, $560 billion is money repurposed from the first CARES Act.  So the amount of new money is actually $348 billion,” said Romney.

Romney says the group worked out a liability provision that provides a temporary suspension of any liability-related lawsuits at the state or federal level associated with COVID-19. That is until states have enough time to put their own protections in place. 

“Let me note that any state that doesn’t put in place protections hasn’t been thinking this through very carefully, because if I were a CEO, I would never think about putting a new business in a state that didn’t have liability protection for COVID-19,” said Romney.

“Some states [such as Utah] already have protections in place.”

In March, Congress passed a $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief bill, but some of the key provisions expired in July. Those included the expansion of unemployment and eviction moratoriums.  Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes has urged Congress to extend that deadline through 2021.

“Although the new vaccines offer significant hope for the future, the coronavirus pandemic is not over, and there are thousands of Utahns suffering economic and other hardships because of it,”Reyes said in a statement.

“Congress should take action on extending the CARES Act, and I am urging them to prioritize this and get it done as soon as possible.”

Pending delivery of a vaccine, infections continue to rise across the U.S.  Utah has been hit hard during what some believe is a second wave of the virus.  CARES Act funds intended for state and local governments originating from the spring package passed by Congress and signed by Pres. Trump must be spent by December 30, 2020.