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Susan Collins Optimistic About Chances Of $908 Billion Pandemic Relief Package

Alex Edelman
AFP via AP
In this Sept. 23, 2020, file photo, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, speaks during a hearing on COVID-19 on Capitol Hill in Washington.

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine says she is optimistic that Congress can reach a deal on a $908 billion pandemic relief package in the next week.

Collins says an increasing number of Republican senators are agreeing to the bipartisan proposal that she helped to write, but acknowledges that there is much more negotiation to do before the bill is ready for a vote.

“We are now at the stage where we are working out the actual language and the details, and that is where it becomes extremely complicated,” she says.

The health care provider relief fund provision, for example, is allocated at $35 billion, but how the money will be distributed is under negotiation. Collins says she’s pushing for some of those funds to be dedicated to rural hospitals.

“We already have two rural hospitals in our state, Calais and Lincoln, who are in bankruptcy proceedings. I want to make sure we sustain the rural health care network,” she says.

The most contentious debate is around the requirements for the $160 billion in aid to state and local governments and a proposed continuation of federal unemployment payments.

Journalist Mal Leary spearheads Maine Public's news coverage of politics and government and is based at the State House.