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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in the Capitol on Wednesday. Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Initial weekly jobless claims rose to 885,000 last week, an increase of 23,000 and a higher total than the 800,000 claims economists had projected, according to data released by the Labor Department.

Why it matters: The jobless numbers are moving in the wrong direction heading into the holidays. Amid clear indicators that the economic recovery is slowing, Congress looks set to reach a deal on a targeted stimulus package as soon as today.

The state of play: The coronavirus stimulus package emerging in Congress would let all the players declare victory — even if long-suffering Americans disagree.

Tale of the tape: Mitch McConnell can say the final $900 billion price tag is similar to the one he put out in July. Democrats can say the bill excludes the majority leader's demand for liability protections for businesses. And the bipartisan group that kickstarted the final round of talks can point to the success of their bicameral alliance.

The latest: Congressional leaders are hours away from announcing an 11th-hour stimulus package, just days before many of the existing coronavirus relief measures expire on Jan. 1, 2021.

  • The new bill is expected to include a second round of direct payments of around $600, $300 per week in enhanced unemployment benefits and $325 billion in aid for small businesses.
  • It leaves out the Democrats' previous demand for state and local aid, as well as a Republican-backed shield that would protect businesses from COVID-related liability lawsuits.

Both sides compromised, which is why we're optimistic there's a legitimate shot they pull this off.

Go deeper

The case of the missing relief money

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A chunk of stimulus payments is missing in action, thanks to a mix up that put as many as 13 million checks into invalid bank accounts.

Why it matters: The IRS (by law) was supposed to get all payments out by Friday. Now the onus could shift to Americans to claim the money on their tax refund — further delaying relief to struggling, lower-income Americans.

Ina Fried, author of Login
1 hour ago - Technology

Scoop: Google is investigating the actions of another top AI ethicist

Google CEO Sundar Pichai. Photo by Mateusz Wlodarczyk/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Google is investigating recent actions by Margaret Mitchell, who helps lead the company's ethical AI team, Axios has confirmed.

Why it matters: The probe follows the forced exit of Timnit Gebru, a prominent researcher also on the AI ethics team at Google whose ouster ignited a firestorm among Google employees.

3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Joe Biden's COVID-19 bubble

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The incoming administration is planning extraordinary steps to protect its most prized commodity, Joe Biden, including requiring daily employee COVID tests and N95 masks at all times, according to new guidance sent to some incoming employees Tuesday.

Why it matters: The president-elect is 78 years old and therefore a high risk for the virus and its worst effects, despite having received the vaccine. While President Trump's team was nonchalant about COVID protocols — leading to several super-spreader episodes — the new rules will apply to all White House aides in "high proximity to principals."

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