Both of Maine’s U.S. senators say they support increasing direct payments to Americans to ease the financial burden of the COVID-19 pandemic, though it remains to be seen whether a bill to do that will get a vote in the Senate before the end of the year.
A bill to increase direct payments in the most recent stimulus package from $600 to $2,000 passed the U.S. House on Monday with the support of Reps. Chellie Pingree of the 1st District and Jared Golden of the 2nd District, both Democrats. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell declined to bring the bill, which is supported by most Democrats as well as President Donald Trump and a handful of Republicans, up for a vote in the Senate on Tuesday.
Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican, told Maine Public that she would support increasing the direct payments, saying the money would help both the unemployed as well as essential workers who had stayed in their jobs through the pandemic.
“Hospital workers, firefighters, our police officers, our truck drivers,” she told Maine Public. “I think this would be very welcome relief and assistance to them.”
Collins was critical of how the House’s bill was set to phase out, saying a family of four would get some assistance if their income was less than $310,000, which she characterized as “too high.” But the Republican senator said she would still vote for the increased payments.
Sen. Angus King, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, called on McConnell to bring up the House bill for a vote in a Tuesday statement, saying the direct payments would provide important relief for many families during a time of financial uncertainty.
“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 said.