Amid the coronavirus pandemic and the ensuing economic crisis and the loss of jobs, the Senate Republicans unveiled their plan for the next economic stimulus package. Called the HEALS (Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection, and Schools) Act, the proposal aims to keep the American economy afloat during these trying times.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called on Democrats to “put aside partisan stonewalling” and “rediscover the sense of urgency that got the CARES Act across the finish line.”
What’s in the package?
The proposal would:
- Update the Payment Protection Program, allowing small businesses whose revenue has declined by 50 percent or more to receive a second PPP loan. This would only apply to businesses with 300 or fewer employees.
- Provide another round of payments of $1,200 to American adults, with the same eligibility requirements as under the CARES Act. People on Social Security are eligible for the checks. It will also include $500 for each dependent, no matter what age.
- $16 billion for coronavirus testing.
- $26 billion for vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics.
- $105 billion for schools to help them adapt to the new circumstances.
- Liability protections ensuring that businesses cannot be “sued out of existence,” according to Sen. John Cornyn of Texas.
The proposal would reduce enhanced unemployment benefits by $400, from $600 to $200 per week. The benefits were set to expire at the end of July.
While a segment of Republicans argue that the new HEALS Act spends too much money, Democrats are still rallying behind their $3 trillion HEROES Act that passed the House in May.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer called the Republican plan a “half-hearted, half-baked legislative proposal.” The Democrats think that the proposal falls short in providing all that is needed to help with the current recession, including no hazard pay for essential workers, not addressing the eviction crisis, and not providing funds for food stamps. Democrats also balked at a provision of $1.75 billion for rebuilding the FBI headquarters in D.C. near one of Trump’s hotels.
What’s next for the relief bill
In the next two to three weeks, Republicans and Democrats will negotiate and hopefully come to a conclusion on what a relief bill will entail. The Senate recesses again on August 7. Republicans and Democrats have until then to reach a deal and send a bill to President Trump. If a deal is not reached before then, it would not be completed until after Labor Day.