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Politics & MoneyCoronavirus

Housing cliff meets fiscal cliff with COVID-19 relief delayed

No pandemic funding legislation is likely until after September, Meadows says

The so-called housing cliff, referring to the expiration of programs in the CARES Act keeping people in their homes, is about to meet the government-funding cliff, as the Sept. 30 end of the federal fiscal year sometimes is called.

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said Wednesday he is not optimistic about reaching a new coronavirus relief deal before the end of September, predicting House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will use the government funding cliff at the end of next month as leverage to strike a deal on pandemic aid,” a Politico story said.

The House of Representatives passed the Heroes Act at the end of May to provide funding to states overwhelmed with pandemic costs, extend the eviction moratorium in the CARES Act, and continue providing jobless Americans with a $600 a week enhancement to unemployment benefits to keep them current on bills such as mortgage and rent.

The Senate ignored the House’s $3 trillion act, proposed a $1 trillion bill of its own that never made it to the floor to be debated because it lacked Republican support, and then went on its August summer vacation without passing anything.

“It’s really been Speaker Pelosi really driving this train as a conductor more so than really anybody,” Meadows told Politico. “And I think privately she says she wants a deal and publicly she says she wants a deal, but when it comes to dealing with Republicans and the administration, we haven’t seen a lot of action.”

President Donald Trump signed an executive order and three memorandums in a ballroom of the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, on Aug. 8 that he said would give Americans the help that Congress had failed to provide.

But, the executive order he signed, touted as an extension of the eviction moratorium in the CARES Act that expired in July, only directed various federal departments and agencies to “consider” and “review” ways to keep renters in homes using existing government programs.

Another directive the president signed would provide a $300 a week extra payment for people receiving unemployment benefits – originally, it was $400 with the requirement that states kick in $100, but that provision was later walked back. The money is coming from a Federal Emergency Management Agency fund intended for hurricane relief.

FEMA has approved about 35 states to offer the “lost wages assistance” that amount to half the $600 a week aid in the CARES Act that expired July 31. Fewer than half a dozen states have completed the rejiggering to their benefits systems required so they can send the checks from the FEMA fund.

Pelosi has said the way to reach a compromise between the House’s $3 trillion bill and the Senate’s $1 trillion proposal is to split the difference: Pass a $2 trillion bill. At a press conference on Thursday, she said the Senate’s proposal lacked enough funds for schools dealing with the pandemic, housing, and other needed aid.

“We have said to them, `We’re willing to meet you in the middle.’” Pelosi said. “We have a pandemic, and they’re coming in with an eyedropper.”

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