White House says COVID stimulus talks ongoing but economy strong

House Speaker Pelosi hosts enrolment signing ceremony for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) relief bill on Capitol Hill in Washington
FILE PHOTO: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer display the "American Rescue Plan" during the enrolment ceremony following passage of U.S. President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion coronavirus disease (COVID-19) relief bill on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., March 10, 2021. REUTERS/Erin Scott

January 5, 2022

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The White House is in constant ongoing dialogue with U.S. lawmakers and others on COVID-19 stimulus funding but the current economy appears strong, the White House spokeswoman said on Wednesday.

“We are in a very different place than we were a year ago or six months ago,” Jen Psaki told reporters at the White House, citing job creation, economic growth, low unemployment levels and higher vaccination rates.

“We’re in constant conversations,” Psaki said, adding she had no specific comment on any potential new actions.

Recent economic data has shown U.S. private payrolls that are increasing more than expected, strong holiday retail sales and easing supply chain woes. Still, the fast-spreading Omicron variant of COVID-19 has dented some sectors as some events are canceled or postponed, and staffing is disrupted by positive cases.

The Washington Post earlier reported that Democratic and Republican members of Congress were discussing another possible round of COVID-19 stimulus spending amid the fast-spreading Omicron variant that would target restaurants, performance venues, gyms and minor league sports teams.

Democratic U.S. Senator Ben Cardin separately told CNN a bipartisan group is exploring whether Congress could aid restaurants and other comparable industries hit by the latest wave in cases but that there is no formal proposal yet.

“Leadership is encouraging us,” Cardin said, according to a CNN reporter on Twitter.

The White House declined to comment to the Washington Post, as did two lawmakers cited as behind the talks.

Such a measure, if passed by Congress and signed into law by U.S. President Joe Biden, would be the latest federal relief package as the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic enters its third year.

Biden, a Democrat, approved the $1.9 trillion “American Rescue Plan” in March 2021.

Former Republican U.S. President Donald Trump approved nearly $900 billion in coronvirus-related funding in December 2020 as part of a larger $2.3 trillion pandemic aid and spending package.

Before that, Congress had allocated $3 trillion to combat the pandemic that shut down much of the United States in March 2020.

(Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt; writing by Susan Heavey in Washington; additional reporting by Shivam Patel in Bengaluru; Editing by Andrew Heavens and Chizu Nomiyama)