Portman says stimulus check or payroll tax cut a possibility in Senate COVID-19 bill

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FILE – In this Tuesday, June 20, 2017 file photo, Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, pauses for a reporter’s question as he arrives at a closed-door GOP strategy session on the Republican health care overhaul with Vice President Mike Pence, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and others, at the Capitol in Washington. Days after it’s […]

CINCINNATI (WDTN) – U.S. Senator Rob Portman said he wanted a focused stimulus bill to come out of the Senate during a conference call with media on Tuesday. A bill he wants to be focused on getting people back to work and addressing the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak.

Portman said the bill needed to deal with the ongoing healthcare crisis. He said 40-percent of the money from the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security Act still hasn’t reached recipients. He emphasized a return-to-work bonus instead of the $600 a week bump in unemployment insurance for those laid off due to COVID-19. The $600 bonus was part of the CARES Act and is set to expire on July 25.

Portman said its possible the Senate bill would include another stimulus check. He also said it was possible it would include a payroll tax cut. He said relief should be as targeted as possible in order to reach those who need it most.

“If you got your job back or you stayed on the job and your income is the same it’s important to provide help to everybody,” Portman said. “But should you be getting a stimulus check versus somebody who may need more help than their unemployment insurance because they don’t have a job to go back to? It needs to be as targeted as much as we can.”

“The University of Chicago has a study saying 60 to 70 percent are making more on (unemployment insurance) than on their previous job,” Portman said.

He said in the cases for some lower-income workers, it was twice what they made while working.

“That’s a disincentive to work and I can understand why people wouldn’t want to go back to work with that kind of disincentive,” Portman said.

Portman said he hoped a return-to-work bonus would be part of the final Republican Senate package, which he said is estimated to be around $1 trillion. He said the Democratic House HEROES Act bill is $3 trillion.

Portman said he was pleased Ohio had ramped up COVID-19 testing in the last two months. He said the state has gone from testing 8,000 suspected COVID-19 patients a day to 23,000 in six weeks. He said there are still issues with getting test results back in a quick manner. Portman said he spoke yesterday with Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, and hoped the next bill would fund re-agents and other elements to get COVID-19 tests back quicker.

Testing has been an issue for the White House and President Donald Trump. On Monday the Associated Press reported there were divisions between the Senate GOP and the White House over more COVID-19 funding that is included in the GOP package. Treasury Steve Mnuchin and acting White House Chief of Staff visited lawmakers on Tuesday to work on passing the package.

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