On Monday, Americans got their first look at the next stimulus package as Senate Republicans revealed details behind the HEALS Act. Along with including another round of stimulus checks, the package targets the staggering unemployment rates continuing to sweep across the country, but is the previously-teased $450 return-to-work bonus part of the proposal?
At this point in time, a return-to-work bonus is not included in the package. As Republicans had begun tossing out ideas regarding the next stimulus package even before reconvening on Capitol Hill on July 20, it had been a motion that had gained support. Such a measure had first been proposed by Sen. Rob Portman, a Republican from Ohio, as an alternative to the current $600 weekly enhanced unemployment benefit. Arguing that extending the $600 weekly benefit past July would disincentive Americans from returning to work, he instead suggested a back-to-work bonus that would provide an additional $450 a week for Americans who return to work. This amount would be added to a worker's paycheck and therefore incentivize Americans to return to work.
After that proposal came to light, it appeared as though it would be included in the next stimulus package. National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow at the time said that the Trump administration was looking "very carefully" at Portman's proposal. On July 10, Kudlow had reiterated such claims, telling reporters that an additional stimulus package could very well include a bonus for going back to work, something that he told Fox News was a "good idea."
However, despite those remarks, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the other Senate presenters did not mention a return-to-work bonus when unveiling the HEALS Act Monday. Forbes reports that while it was not mentioned, it isn't entirely out of the realm of possibility, as the package still needs to undergo negotiations.
Although it did exclude such a bonus, the HEALS Act does offer benefits for American workers, specifically those currently out of work. Under the proposal, the weekly $600 benefit, which had been passed under the CARES Act, will be cut to just $200. This benefit will last through September, after which a new formula will be implemented that caps unemployment benefits at 70 percent of a person's wages before they had lost their job.
According to a July 24 Forbes report, approximately 30 million Americans, or 20 percent of American workers, are currently receiving unemployment benefits. The week prior to that report saw 1.4 million new unemployment claims.