WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Hours before the expiration of federal benefits that have supported millions of Americans thrown out of work by the pandemic crisis, Republicans and Democrats still seemed a long way off on Friday from an agreement allowing an extension of this crucial device.

Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic Speaker of the House of Representatives, said discussions with the White House had not made much progress.

The presidency accused the Democrats of obstruction. “As usual, Democrats play politics on Capitol Hill,” said Mark Meadows, secretary general of the White House.

Parliamentarians and members of the presidential administration clash on the outlines of a new plan to support the economy while the epidemic, and the business closures and containment measures it has resulted in the effect of depriving tens of millions of Americans of employment.

A specific federal allowance of $ 600 per week has been put in place, but the program expires with the end of July.

The Trump administration has offered to extend it for a week and reactivate the moratorium on housing evictions, which expired last week.

The Democrats for the moment refuse and will not lift their blockade, explains Nancy Pelosi, only when the two parties are “on the way” of a comprehensive agreement. “We are not there,” she added at a press conference.

The difficulties focus on the fate of this weekly federal allowance for the unemployed, which complements the existing systems at the level of the states of the union.

Some Republicans believe the $ 600 sum is too high, and the White House has offered to reduce it to $ 400 for the next four months, reports a source familiar with the discussions going on behind closed doors.

(Richard Cowan; French version Henri-Pierre André, edited by Jean-Stéphane Brosse)