The Senate has been back in session for almost a week, but there is still no concrete agreement between Republican Senators and the White House on what the next coronavirus stimulus package will look like. House Democrats have been waiting for a proposal from the two sides ever since the HEROES Act was passed along partisan lines in May. They, along with the rest of the country, will still have to wait a few more days to find out what Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is proposing.
The next stimulus act will be the next "phase" of Congress' response to the coronavirus pandemic and the first since the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act was signed into law on April 24. It is also expected to include a second economic impact payment sent directly to Americans, similar to the stimulus check included in the CARES Act President Donald Trump signed in March. House Democrats included a stimulus check in the HEROES Act, but Senate Republicans never seriously considered taking up the bill and have been working on their own response.
Senate Republicans and the Trump Administration have said the next package will be the last and are limiting the cost to $1 trillion. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has insisted this is not enough to help Americans and the economy. "We want to see this bill, not just have a conversation," Pelosi told reporters earlier this week after she met with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. With Republicans still hashing out whatever that bill will be, here is where it stands as of Thursday night.
The plan will be unveiled next week
McConnell had plans to unveil the next package by the end of this week, but it has been pushed back. This means they're definitely will not be a last-minute save for the enhanced federal unemployment benefits, which expire at the end of this week. The benefit was included in the CARES Act and sent unemployed Americans $600 per week. "The [Trump] administration has requested additional time to review the fine details, but we will be laying down the proposal early next week," McConnell said Thursday, reports CNBC. "We have an agreement in principle on the shape of the package."prevnext
$1,200 stimulus check will be included
Mnuchin told reporters Thursday that a stimulus check will be included in the new bill. "We're talking about the same provision as last time, so our proposal is the exact same proposal as last time," Mnuchin said. The CARES Act included a $1,200 payment to qualifying Americans who earned $75,000 or less and filed federal taxes for 2018 or 2019. Couples earning $150,000 and filing jointly were eligible for $2,400. Dependents under 17 were eligible for $500, added to the payment sent to the person who claimed them.prevnext
Lower unemployment benefits expected
While House Democrats extended the CARES Act's $600 weekly federal unemployment benefit through January 2021 in the HEROES Act, Republicans are trying to cut the program. Some Republicans have suggested the benefit makes unemployed Americans want to not work since a study by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that two-thirds of unemployed workers who were eligible for the benefit were earning less when they had a job, notes Forbes. There were reports that Republicans were looking to cut the weekly benefit to $400, but the Washington Post reported that some Republicans and White House staff are trying to cut it down to $200 per week.prevnext
No payroll tax cut
Trump voiced support for payroll tax cuts for weeks, even as some Republicans began bristling at the idea. However, Mnuchin has confirmed that the White House has agreed to drop the idea. Trump's "priority for the moment is to get money into Americans quickly and one of the problems with the payroll tax cut is it takes time," Mnuchin said, reports CNN. Mnuchin explained that the administration is "going to come back again" on this issue, hinting, "there may be a CARES 5.0."prevnext
One issue McConnell and Republicans have repeatedly brought up is liability protection for businesses, schools, and universities. These institutions would be protected from lawsuits by someone who contracts the coronavirus. "We don't need an epidemic of lawsuits on the heels of the pandemic we're already struggling with," McConnell said at the White House Monday, reports CBS News. During the recess, McConnell told reporters that no bill would pass the Senate without liability protections.
This has been a controversial issue among Democrats. While Pelosi and Schumer rejected it, some moderate Democrats have shown support for business liability protection reform in some instances, reports The Hill. "The simplest and most powerful solution to liability protection is to have a science-based, enforceable standard for the protection of employees and customers," Sen. Christopher Coons of Delaware said. "I don't support a path forward where we don't offer clear regulatory guidance and don't offer liability protection for workers."prevnext
More testing funds
On Wednesday, the Associated Press reported that the White House and Senate Republicans agreed to include more funds for testing in the bill. Republicans wanted $25 billion for testing, but since Trump has downplayed the importance of tracking and tracing the virus' spread, the White House argued that $9 billion in unspent funds from the previous stimulus package was enough. In the end, they agreed on $16 billion added to the unspent $9 billion to reach $25 billion.prev