US Senate Democrats reach deal on jobless assistance in COVID-19 relief bill



US Democrats have reached a deal on over emergency jobless benefits, breaking a nine-hour logjam that had stalled the party’s showpiece $US1.9 trillion ($2.45 trillion) COVID-19 relief bill.

Senate leaders struck the deal with moderate Democratic senator Joe Manchin, with an amendment to be offered extending the assistance through September 6 at $US300 per week.

The compromise, announced by Senator Manchin and a Democratic aide, seemed to clear the way for the Senate to begin a climactic, marathon series of votes expected to lead to approval of the sweeping legislation.

President Joe Biden’s top legislative priority, the overall relief bill is aimed at battling the pandemic and nursing the staggered US economy back to health.

It would provide direct payments of up to $US1,400 to most Americans and money for COVID-19 vaccines and testing, as well as aid to state and local governments, help for schools and the airline industry, along with subsidies for health insurance.

Joe Manchin looking left of image wearing glasses perched on the end of his nose
Joe Manchin is considered the most conservative Democrat in the US Senate.(AP: Leigh Voel/Pool)

Aiding unemployed Americans is a top Democratic priority, with 10 million fewer jobs in the US since the pandemic struck a year ago.

But it is also an issue that drove a divide between progressives seeking to help jobless constituents cope with the bleak economy and moderates such as Senator Manchin who have wanted to trim some of the bill’s costs.

Senator Manchin is regarded as the most conservative Democrat and a kingmaker in the 50-50 Senate that leaves his party without a vote to spare.



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