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Congress Continues Appropriations Negotiations, Makes Little Progress on a COVID-Relief Package

House and Senate appropriators continue their work to reach a bipartisan spending agreement for fiscal year (FY) 2021. Congress has until December 11 to either reach a deal on all twelve FY21 spending bills, pass another continuing resolution (CR), or face a government shutdown. Even as negotiations continue, there remains a lingering question over whether or not outgoing President Donald Trump will be willing to sign a spending agreement. As in previous years, negotiations over funding for a southern border wall remain a sticking point, and the president vowed after signing an omnibus spending package in 2018 to never do so again. Despite the uncertainty, lawmakers express optimism about getting the spending bills finalized and enacted before the end of the year.

There is a possibility that additional coronavirus-related aid may be attached to an omnibus spending bill or CR, although Senate Appropriations Chair Richard Shelby (R-AL) noted the committee had not yet reached the point of discussing additional coronavirus aid in the omnibus bill. Negotiators have made little progress on a full coronavirus relief package.

Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) noted on November 17 that he is working on a bipartisan “targeted” relief bill he hopes will pass during the lame-duck session. While details of the bill have yet to be released, Senator Portman noted additional funding will be limited to issues that have received bipartisan support, including additional unemployment insurance, funding for vaccine development and distribution, and assistance for small businesses. Early reports on the bill’s contents have not included funding for rental assistance, homelessness services, or housing assistance, all of which are desperately needed to ensure people do not lose their homes in the coming weeks.