As Americans keep their eyes peeled for any stimulus bill information coming from Capitol Hill, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has put a new bill into the playing field. The bill is a slim and targeted relief bill similar to two previous $500 billion proposals McConnell and other GOP members have brought forth, and it is apparently already gaining the support of President Donald Trump.
Speaking to reporters Wednesday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that Trump "will sign the McConnell proposal that he put forward yesterday” and that "we look forward to making progress on that." At this time, however, it remains unclear if the bill will be able to pass through both chambers of Congress. Maine Sen. Susan Collins, according to the Chicago Tribune, seemed to cast doubt on its success, stating that "if it's identical to what (McConnell) brought forth this summer then it’s going to be a partisan bill that is not going to become law."
The bill comes as McConnell rejected a Tuesday-introduced $908 billion bipartisan bill. That bill has received support from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, and even President-elect Joe Biden. The bill is on a much larger scale than McConnell's proposal, with sources telling the New York Post that the scaled-back package "will consist of targeted items."
Paycheck Protection Program Extension
According to the Post, the proposal would, among other things, provide an extension of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) for struggling small businesses. The program had initially been established under the CARES Act, which was passed in late March, as a loan designed to provide a direct incentive for small businesses to keep their workers on the payroll. McConnell and his fellow Republicans have included provisions to extend the program in their past proposals.prevnext
The proposal would also include a provision targeting unemployment insurance for gig workers. The CARES Act made gig workers eligible for unemployment for the first time. It is unclear how much funding would be provided for unemployment benefits under McConnell’s proposal.prevnext
Aid for Live Venues and Theaters
The pandemic has caused broad sweeping and devastating losses to a number of businesses, including live venues and theaters, which are unable to operate, or only able to operate at a limited capacity, due to safety precautions. In an effort to keep these business afloat, the new proposal includes a $332 billion grant program for shuttered live venues and theaters.
In July, Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) had introduced a similar measure titled the Save Our Stages Act, which would have authorized $10 billion for a grant program through the Small Business Administration to provide six months of financial support to keep venues afloat and pay employees, according to The Hill.prevnext
The proposal also includes liability protection for schools and businesses. McConnell has long supported the provision, and has included the measure in past proposals, including a September package. McConnell in July had even stated that "any bill that passes the Senate" would have to contain liability protections "for everyone… everybody who interacted with this pandemic." Democrats, however, have strongly opposed this.prevnext
Under the proposal, $20 billion would be provided in additional farm assistance. The CARES Act had provided $14 billion to the Agriculture Department's Commodity Credit Corp spending authority and authorized $9.5 billion for U.S. farmers hurt by the fast-spreading pandemic, Reuters reported at the time.prevnext
Coronavirus testing and Vaccine Development
The new proposal also seeks to curb the cause of the ongoing economic crisis: the coronavirus pandemic. Under the proposal, $16 billion would be provided for increased testing, with an additional $31 billion going towards vaccine development. There are already a number of vaccines proving to be hopeful, with the Pfizer vaccine expected to be approved by the FDA by mid-December. Distribution of the vaccine is expected to happen immediately.prevnext
What Isn’t Included?
The proposal does, however, leave out several notable provisions. Not included is a second round of stimulus payments, which had gained bipartisan support and even received support from President Donald Trump. The two previous smaller packages had also neglected to include an additional round of payments, and the $908 billion bipartisan proposal does not include payments either. The bill also does not include the $600-per-week federal boost to unemployment insurance.prev