Editorial cites critical need for additional federal pandemic relief; Congressional leaders report progress.

Congressional leaders and the White House continue to negotiate a year-end pandemic relief measure, with the news today citing progress.

A proposed COVID-19 relief bill is expected to get backing from President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell but it won’t include $1,200 in direct payments to most Americans, a Republican senator involved in the bipartisan talks says.

“President Trump has indicated that he would sign a $908 billion package — there’s only one $908 billion package out there and it’s ours,” Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., said Sunday. “The pain of the American people is driving this, and I’m optimistic that both those leaders will come on board.”

With time running out, lawmakers from both parties were closing in on the final language that would provide roughly $300 in extra federal weekly unemployment benefits, leaving the issue of cash payments for President-elect Joe Biden to wrestle over with a new Congress next year.

We should know later today what the agreed-upon package looks like. The Seattle Times editorial board makes the case for the additional assistance, tying it directly to public health.

As COVID-19 surges in Washington and around the country, the clock is ticking on federally funded public-health efforts to fight the potentially deadly virus.

Without congressional action, essential local efforts to test, trace and respond to the pandemic will be endangered once the federal funding expires at the end of this month.

That must not happen. Federal lawmakers should quickly pass a COVID-19 relief bill that includes funding for the state, local and tribal governments that have borne the lion’s share of responsibility for fighting this pandemic, even as revenues have declined.

The editorial distinguishes between the need for additional funding for state and local government general budgets, which has been controversial, and the public health efforts. It concludes,

This isn’t about bailing out state and local governments. Simply put, it’s about saving lives.

As we’ve written before, additional assistance is not now required to balance the Washington state budget. But additional relief to households and businesses that have borne the brunt of the economic hardship caused by efforts to combat the spread of the virus is also essential.