Americans are hoping that a new stimulus check bill will pass after the 2020 presidential election, but there are still some major issues that the U.S. Congress has not agreed on. The legislatures are split down party lines, with the White House sometimes acting as a third entity with seemingly different goals. For those counting on more aid, there are six key issues to keep an eye on.
The Republican-controlled United States Senate and the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives have been trying to work out a second stimulus check since May, but have yet to reach an accord. The price range of this economic relief package has been everywhere from $3.5 trillion and $500 billion, with many stops in between. Some issues have stayed on the table for that entire negotiation, but others have come and gone without seeming to budge lawmakers any closer to an agreement.
The Senate is currently on recess until Nov. 9, at which point it will reconvene for a "lame duck session" before the newly-elected senators take office in January. Many desperate Americans are hopeful that the end-of-the-year session will see a stimulus bill passed at last, though others believe that January is more realistic.
Either way, the issues that need to be worked out will be the same. Here is a look at the key provisions holding up the next stimulus package.
Enhanced unemployment insurance was one of the first major issues to stall the stimulus check debates, with Democrats calling to renew the CARES Act program that provided an extra $600 per week on all unemployment checks due to the pandemic. Republicans originally wanted this number dropped to $200 per week, then scaled based on lost income, with a cap of $500 per week.
Neither side has budged much, and though this issue has fallen out of the headlines, it remains a hurdle to overcome in the negotiations. According to the latest from The Washington Post, some Senate Republicans and White House advisers would consider a payment of $300 or $400 per week, but it is unclear if their leaders would agree.prevnext
State & Local Government Funding
Back in March, the CARES Act provided vital funding to state and local governments for their coronavirus responses, to help with testing, treatment, contact tracing and other new safety measures. This money also helped pay the salaries and overtime of first responders, including health care workers. However, the president's divisive rhetoric about "Democrat-run cities" has clouded this issue even further.
In May, House Democrats wanted $1 trillion for this category alone, but that number has been revised significantly in their latest proposal. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has made various offers — all much lower than Democrats' — all while questioning the need for this funding at all.prevnext
One issue Republican lawmakers pushed particularly hard is liability protections from COVID-19-related lawsuits for businesses, schools, hospitals and other public spaces. "I want to make sure that we protect the people we've already sent assistance to who are going to be set up for an avalanche of lawsuits if we don't act," McConnell said in April, according to a report by NPR.
This measure has been controversial, as critics say it might enable negligent behavior in some cases. However, Democrats have not fought back too hard, indicating that they would accept some version of these shields in the final bill. Last month, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said: "I think that there is a balance that can be struck, but it isn't the McConnell language."prevnext
Working Family Tax Credits
Tax credits have been viewed as a good solution for economic relief going forward — simply reducing the amount that Americans owe in taxes rather than disbursing funds to them directly. Republicans and Democrats have gone back and forth with programs like the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit, often sparring over the particulars, according to CNET. The exact amounts and eligibility rules will need to be settled before a stimulus bill can be passed.prevnext
In general, Democrats have sought more money for coronavirus testing, safety precautions and contact tracing than Republicans have — either in the Senate or the White House. However, negotiating on President Trump's behalf, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has promised that this issue wouldn't be the one that stalls negotiations again.prevnext
School & Childcare Funding
Finally, the Democrats' bill has called for serious funding for schools around the country, to make sure they can afford to follow all safety precautions during this pandemic. The latest revised version of the HEROES Act allocates $182 billion for this purpose and another $39 billion for safety in higher education institutions. Finally, the bill includes $57 billion for safe childcare facilities — $278 billion, or over a quarter-trillion dollars overall. Given that Senate Republicans' most recent proposals cost between one trillion and half a trillion dollars, this sizable portion will be an issue for them.prevnext
Negotiations cannot even get started again until Monday, Nov. 9, and it is hard to predict how they will go without knowing the results of the 2020 presidential election. For instance, some pundits fear that if Trump loses the presidency, he will refuse to sign any stimulus package into law while he remains in office. Some key Senate seats are up for grabs as well, and if the Democrats secure the Senate, they may want to wait until January to pass a bill with fewer compromises in it.prev