O'Halleran ‘outraged’ by lack of COVID relief

August 21, 2020
In The News

PAYSON - Congressman Tom O’Halleran issued a statement saying he’s “outraged” by the Republican Senate’s refusal to respond to House Democrat’s passage of a second, $3.4 trillion COVID-19 stimulus bill that would extend unemployment benefits, provide help for schools and local government, provide a second $1,200 check for every taxpayer and support other programs to cope with the pandemic.

Senate Republicans did not pass a bill of their own before the House and Senate went on recess to hit the campaign trail.

Reportedly, the Senate leadership is circulating a new version of its $1 trillion counter-offer. The Senate version would trim the enhanced maximum unemployment benefit to $200 from the current $600, according to media reports. The proposal earmarks most of the new money for businesses affected by the closures and loss of customers. Reportedly, the new version drops the $1.200 payments to individual taxpayers, with little bailout money for schools or local governments.

O’Halleran in a prepared statement said, “the Senate has now had 78 days to act. Senate leadership has let the clock tick down to the very last minute in the hope of forcing the hand of Congressional leadership on whatever package they put forth, instead of debating and coming to a compromise on the (Democratic passed) Heroes Act. Now families are being kicked off their extended unemployment, are continuing to lose their jobs and health care due to no fault of their own. We need a deal for American families now.”

O’Halleran is facing a strong challenge from Pinal County farmer Tiffany Shedd, who won a hard-fought primary in the District 1 seat, which includes most of Pinal County. O’Halleran was one of the few Democrats in the nation who won a congressional seat, also won by President Donald Trump. It’s considered one of the swing seats in determining party control the House of Representatives.

Shedd sharply criticized O'Hallern's statement, saying he continues to march in "lock step" with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and liberal Democrats who turned the second COVID relief package into a "wish list" of programs.

"Rather than standing with Washington liberals and insisting on making illegal immigrants eligible for $1,200 stimulus payments and cutting taxes for billionaires in California and New York, Tom O'Halleran needs to be doing whatever it takes to help his constituents who are suffering."

Democrats passed a second, $3.4 trillion package almost three months ago, which included $1 trillion for local government and schools.

Republicans and Democrats in Washington finally started negotiations several weeks ago, but talks broke down with the two sides still far apart. Key disagreements included the extension of the full, enhanced unemployment benefit, which Republicans feared would give people an incentive not to return to work. The enhanced benefit boosted the maximum weekly unemployment benefit in Arizona from about $240 per week to about $840 per week, when meant low-income workers could make more money on unemployment than were working.

President Donald Trump issued a series of executive orders when the House and Senate negotiations broke down. The orders used federal money for disaster relief funding to offer a short-term, $300 per-week extension of the enhanced jobless benefits. He also said businesses for the next several months don’t need to collect the roughly 15% payroll tax for Social Security and Medicare, although businesses and employees will likely still have to pay the amount owed next year, prompting some legal experts to question the legality and impact of the order.

The latest Republican proposal reportedly provides less money and fewer compromises than were included in the measure House Democratic negotiators have already rejected.