McConnell says Senate will craft another assistance package in coming weeks
By Renee Beasley Jones, Messenger-Inquirer
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday that he will start crafting a second — and last — federal assistance package when the Senate session begins next week.
McConnell didn’t provide many details of the proposed plan during a private meeting Tuesday at Owensboro Health Muhlenberg Community Hospital, but he touched on some highlights.
McConnell said the Senate will consider providing another stimulus check in the next round of assistance, but he feels the unemployment insurance bonus of $600 a week was a mistake. He said the extra money made it more profitable for some people to stay home instead of returning to work.
He said trial lawyers have already filed about 1,100 lawsuits across the nation related to COVID-19.
“We’re going to absolutely have liability protection for hospitals, doctors, nurses, businesses, colleges, universities, (and kindergarten) through 12,” he said. “We cannot have an epidemic of lawsuits on the heels of a pandemic.”
Liability protection will cover coronavirus lawsuits only, beginning in December 2019 and extending through the next four years.
“It will guarantee that unless you were grossly negligent or intentionally engaged in this behavior you’re not going to be successfully sued on top of everything else that all of us are having to deal with during this incredible experience,” McConnell said.
Other important components of the proposed package will be kids in school, jobs and health care, he said.
“We can’t have a normal country if kids are not back in school,” McConnell said.
It will be expensive to reopen schools, and students must get used to wearing masks. For the past two months, McConnell and fellow Senators have set an example by practicing physical distancing and wearing masks.
The senator acknowledged any additional assistance package won’t be “as simple” to pass as the last. The environment is far more politically charged now, compared to four months ago when the CARES Act passed.
“But I do think, in the end, we’ll come together ... and do one last package,” McConnell said. “And it needs to be the last package. When you think about the size of our national debt now, it is truly disturbing. In the meantime, wear your mask and practice social distancing. Let’s get through this pandemic until we get a vaccine.”
When visiting Kentucky in recent months, McConnell has toured hospitals, thanking health-care workers on the front lines of nation’s fight against the coronavirus and talking about the challenges the pandemic presented the nation. He visited OH Regional Hospital in early June.
During a two-month span this year, the U.S. went from the best economy it had enjoyed for half a century to a depression-era free fall, McConnell said.
To make matters worse, the CARES Act added $3 trillion to the national debt.
“That essentially gave us a national debt the size of our economy for the first time since World War II,” McConnell said.
OHMCH received $4.1 million in CARES Act funding, he said. Also, in Kentucky, 48,000 small businesses received forgivable loans amounting to more than $5 billion.
In all, the commonwealth received about $12 billion in federal assistance during the COVID-19 crisis, McConnell said.