New GOP 'relief' bill helps people who eat 'business meals' but not workers who feed them

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wants to expand liability protections for businesses, but not help people in need.

A coronavirus relief bill being circulated by Republicans this week would enable diners to claim a tax deduction on business meals — but offers no aid for the restaurant employees serving them.

According to the Washington Post, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and other Republican leaders have proposed internally a bill that will likely be "fiercely opposed by Democrats."

"We just don't have time to waste time," McConnell said, responding to a separate bill introduced by a bipartisan group of senators earlier on Tuesday, which would have provided $908 billion in relief funds. "We have a couple of weeks left here. Obviously, it does require bipartisan support to get out of Congress, but it requires a presidential signature."

According to the Post's Seung Min Kim, the new GOP plan is rumored to have the Trump administration's approval.

It includes, among other things, proposed tax deductions for corporate meals, giving diners a tax write-off for business lunches.

Struggling restaurant employees, meanwhile, will receive no financial assistance: The bill offers no stimulus checks for Americans in need during the pandemic, although it promises short-term assistance in the form of a one-month extension of unemployment benefits.

As of September, 12.6 million Americans were out of work, with an unemployment rate sitting at 7.9% nationally — more than twice what it was in January. None of those out-of-work Americans have received economic assistance in the form of direct payments since the first wave of stimulus checks were issued in mid-April — and many of those took months to arrive.

As of April, 8 million restaurant workers were out of work, with many struggling to find housing as indoor dining restrictions led to the loss of jobs in the industry.

The Post also noted this week that the GOP's plan offers "no additional funding for state and local governments or help for cash-strapped transit agencies."

It's reminiscent of McConnell's proposed aid offer in late July that doubled the deduction for business lunches but did not expand SNAP benefits for families in need.

As Fox News reported, the bill does include more financial assistance for small business owners but also a controversial "liability shield," which would provide businesses with blanket immunity from litigation if negligent safety practices endanger workers during the pandemic.

According to NPR, McConnell has said he will hold any proposed bill hostage if it doesn't include a liability shield. Already, many are concerned that such protections could pave the way for abuses such as those enumerated in a high-profile lawsuit against a Tyson Foods plant in Iowa, where managers allegedly took bets on which employees would get sick with coronavirus.

Democrats have since slammed McConnell over the latest proposal.

"The biggest impediment to getting an agreement [on coronavirus relief] is the Republican leader refusing to negotiate in a bipartisan way," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said, according to Fox News. "He knows darn well the House is a Democratic majority. He knows darn well he needs Democratic votes in the Senate ... and yet he continues to negotiate in a partisan way."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.