Is a second stimulus package being blocked by Democrats?
On Monday, Senate Republicans unveiled their $1 trillion Health, Economic Assistance, Liability protection, and Schools Act, or HEALS Act. The White House began negotiations with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer late Monday.
House Democrats have widely favored their $3 trillion Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act. Also called the HEROES Act, they passed this legislation passed in May. Democrats have been vocal in their desire to continue the $600 weekly federal unemployment aid that runs out on July 31.
The HEALS Act would decrease the federal unemployment aid to $200 each week, in response to reports that employers cannot get employees back to work when they are making more money on unemployment. Also, a significant amount of funding is dedicated to the Payroll Protection Program, a small business rescue program, and to safely and fully reopening schools and universities.
“We have produced a tailored and targeted draft that will cut right to the heart of three distinct crises facing our country: getting kids back in school, getting workers back to work and winning the health care fight against the virus,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said on the Senate floor.
Highlights of the HEALS Act are:
- A second round of $1,200 checks for individuals ($2,400 for married couples), with increased support for adult dependents.
- A renewal of the Paycheck Protection Program. This is the small business rescue program that has provided more than $500 billion to companies with fewer than 500 employees. The GOP proposal would target hard-hit firms with 300 or fewer workers. It would also give them a second opportunity to draw from the fund.
- A continued federal supplement to state unemployment insurance, in the amount of $200 each week.
- $100 billion towards schools and universities reopening fully, a priority of President Donald Trump.
- $16 billion to expand state testing with an emphasis on schools, child care facilities and nursing homes.
- $26 billion for the development of vaccines and remedies to treat COVID-19.
- Freezing 2021 Medicare premiums at 2020 levels.
- Economic incentives to boost worker retention.
- Liability protections for medical workers, schools, and employers.
- More funding for personal protective equipment to help first responders avoid infection from COVID-19.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY calls the package “hard-hearted,” “cruel,” and “totally inadequate.” Schumer, on the other hand, would like to see more money dedicated to schools, hazard pay for essential workers, protection for homeowners and renters facing foreclosures and evictions, and additional funding for food stamps and other social programs.
“This is a much more responsible approach” than the previous bill, Senate Finance Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, said on the Senate floor.
Many Republicans are wary of spending another $1 trillion. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, told reporters on Capitol Hill that “The answer to these challenges will not simply be shoveling cash out of Washington. The answer to these challenges will be getting people back to work.”
Once again, Democrats are in favor of spending taxpayer money to increase dependence on federal programs. There is also a call to keep schools closed and continue distance learning. It would essentially shut out the lowest income families from any schooling at all. Distance learning requires computers, internet connections, and a parent to remain at home during the day; in many states, libraries are not even open to the public for use of computers and the internet.
As per its schedule, Congress will take a recess on August 7, giving a short window for negotiations to reach a conclusion. Many Republicans against additional spending at taxpayer expense. Many also expected heavy Democrat resistance to the HEALS Act. Because of this, they might experience difficulty in reaching an agreement for the new stimulus package.