U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King of Maine say they support increasing direct payments to Americans to ease the financial burden of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Collins, a Republican, says she supports increasing the direct payments from $600 per person to $2,000. She says the money would help those who have lost jobs, but also those who have continued to work through the pandemic.
“Hospital workers, firefighters, our police officers, our truck drivers,” she says. “I think this would be very welcome relief and assistance to them.”
But Collins does not like the terms of the phase-out provision that’s in the House passed bill, which would phase out all assistance for a family of four when their income reaches $310,000. She prefers the language in the CARES Act that phased out benefits for families making $218,000 a year.
“Based on the calculations I’ve seen it does not completely phase out if you are a family of four until over $300,000. That to me is too high,” she says.
Collins says that despite that provision, she will vote for the $2,000 payment.
In a statement, King, an independent, also expressed his support for the increased direct payments, calling them “a significant step in the right direction.”
“This is a critical moment in the COVID pandemic from a health perspective, but also an economic one — if we don’t extend additional aid to those suffering from financial uncertainty, it may take the United States longer to recover its economic footing,” he said. “Though I wish this legislation before us was more carefully targeted towards those most in need, this is the bill before us — and an opportunity to do a lot of good for millions of Americans is not an opportunity I’ll pass up.”
King was also critical of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who on Tuesday blocked an attempt at passing the measure with unanimous consent.
“Over the last nine months, the American people have faced tough times, and the Senate Majority Leader has refused to advance several proposals that would provide them with the aid they need,” he said. “It’s time for Senator McConnell to get out of the way, and let the Senate vote on this legislation to provide real relief for Americans in need.”
Updated 4:08 p.m. with statement from King.