Stimulus talks press on as dealmakers push for another boost to unemployment payments. Here’s everything you need to know about the rescue package
- House Democrats are taking another shot at passing a coronavirus stimulus bill just five weeks before Election Day.
- The latest bill is a scaled-down version of the HEROES Act that House Democrats passed in May.
- It includes another round of $1,200 checks, a boost to unemployment payments, and $225 billion for schools and colleges.
- Democrats are also pushing for an extension of the now-expired $600 weekly increase to state unemployment payouts through January as part of the latest edition of the HEROES Act.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Congress and the White House are trying to arrive at a deal on another coronavirus stimulus with the clock ticking fast toward the November election.
The key players so far haven’t found a middle ground, though the contours of an agreement appear to be somewhere between the $2.2 trillion stimulus House Speaker Nancy Pelosi unveiled Monday evening and a $700 billion aide package Senate Republicans tried to pass in early September. House Democrats’ latest stimulus, which stretches 2,145 pages, represents a fresh effort to inject fiscal relief into the coronavirus-damaged economy several weeks after talks stalled.
In search of a compromise, Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin met in the Capitol on Wednesday with Pelosi and then with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell but the sides failed to agree on what should be included in the aid package.
“We still don’t have an agreement, but we have more work to do. And we’re going to see where we end up,” Mnuchin told reporters as he exited McConnell’s office.
Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, a Maryland Democrat, told reporters in a call Wednesday morning that House Democrats would pass their $2.2 trillion bill even if Republicans and the White House don’t support it. The vote could happen as early as Thursday, just before lawmakers return to their districts for a final blitz of campaigning amid the global pandemic.
The House bill primed for passage is unlikely to get support from Republicans without major changes. McConnell called the Democrats proposal a “multi-trillion-dollar far-left wish list” during remarks on the Senate floor Wednesday.
The latest stimulus is roughly $1 trillion below the bill dubbed the HEROES Act, which House Democrats passed in May but was never voted on by the Senate. Pelosi told her caucus in a letter on Monday that Democrats were able to cut the price tag of the latest bill — which leaders are calling HEROES 2 — by shortening the duration of the different programs.
Insider’s review of the bill shows many other changes were included in the legislation, which is meant to boost the economy and buoy the healthcare system. Here are the provisions that stood out.
Another round of $1,200 checks
Under the bill, people would receive another $1,200 in relief checks for single filers and $2,400 for couples filing jointly. Families would receive an additional $500 payment for each child.
The amount is on par with what people got under the CARES Act, the $2 trillion stimulus Trump signed into law in March. Trump has said he supports giving individuals another round of checks.
Unemployment payments boosted
The CARES Act temporarily added a $600 weekly increase to state unemployment payouts, which expired at the end of July. Some people continued to receive a $300-a-week payment boost through an executive order Trump signed in August, but the money is running out.
Democrats are seeking to extend the $600 weekly benefit through January as part of the latest edition of the HEROES Act.
$436 billion for state and local governments
Democrats have reduced their request for state and local aid. The last stimulus the House passed contained almost $1 trillion for state and local governments and became one of the biggest points of contention between Republicans and Democrats.
Now, Democrats want $238 billion for states and the District of Columbia and $179 billion for local governments. The money can be used to help with coronavirus relief efforts or to plug budget shortfalls.
The government picks up the health insurance tab
The legislation would have the government subsidize the cost of people’s health insurance after they lose a job. Under the current law, people can buy coverage under the marketplaces set up by the Affordable Care Act. The premiums for these plans are often too expensive, especially for middle-class Americans who don’t get big subsidies.
The legislation allows the government to pick up nearly the entire tab for ACA premiums for people who lose their jobs. This boost would also extend to people who make more than $49,960 a year, the current cutoff for subsidies.
Under the previous version of the HEROES Act, Democrats wanted to subsidize plans on COBRA, a health insurance plan offered to people if they lose their jobs and employer-funded healthcare. That would have allowed people to stay on the health insurance they were getting through work — rather than putting them on ACA plans — and would have cost about $100 billion.
$225 billion for schools and colleges
The legislation contains $182 billion to help schools with the costs of running during the pandemic, including for setting up remote learning. Colleges would get a share of $39 billion under the plan and childcare services would receive $57 billion. The previous version of the bill provided only $90 billion to help schools.
The bill would also let borrowers suspend their federal student loan payments until September 30, 2021.
Coronavirus safety rules for workplaces
Under the legislation, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration would require workplaces to publish plans for how they will keep their employees safe from the coronavirus. The rules would be due seven days after the bill is signed into law and the agency would have the authority to enforce the standards. Senate Republicans have insisted that they want a bill that provides businesses with immunity from coronavirus-related lawsuits brought by employees who claim they got infected at their workplaces.
$25 billion for airlines and $120 billion for restaurants
Relief for airlines and restaurants wasn’t included in the last HEROES Act. The current bill would give airlines $25 billion in grants, a provision that has the support of the White House. Another $3 billion in grants would be set aside for airline contractors.
Restaurants would get $120 billion, money that can only be used to pay workers and keep them employed.
$3.6 billion for the election and $15 billion for the Postal Service
Just like the HEROES Act the House passed in May, the latest relief measure would provide $3.6 billion in grants for states to plan and prepare for the elections, according to a document provided by Democratic staff on the House Appropriations Committee.
But lawmakers reduced their proposal for the Postal Service to $15 billion even as the country prepares to collect a significantly higher number of mail-in ballots this year while people avoid polling stations to reduce their exposure to the coronavirus. Democrats had previously hoped to direct $25 billion to USPS.
Cannabis provisions tucked in
The provision, known as the SAFE Banking Act, would allow cannabis companies to access banking and financial services — just like other businesses — so they don’t have to keep relying on cash.
But it’s unlikely to get GOP support. McConnell has frequently derided the cannabis section of the HEROES Act as an example of something unrelated to the pandemic.
“Their bill mentions the word ‘cannabis’ more times than the words ‘job’ or ‘jobs,'” the Kentucky Republican who is facing his own reelection challenge this year said from the Senate floor Wednesday.
$75 billion for testing and tracing; $125 billion for healthcare providers
The legislation would help public health workers track down people who may have been exposed to the coronavirus so they can be tested and isolated.
Hospitals, doctors, and clinics would get a share of $125 billion to help them with the costs of fighting the virus and provide relief from their financial losses. Providers already received $175 billion under previous aid packages.
The latest bill includes $7 billion to help the federal government distribute a coronavirus vaccine to the public when it’s ready. Robert Redfield, who oversees the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told Congress that the agency would need at least $6 billion to carry out its vaccine plan.
Additionally, the bill closes loopholes that could have resulted in people getting charged for the coronavirus vaccine. Under the measure, Medicare and Medicaid would have to pay for the vaccine and not charge patients. The House bill specifically sets aside another $600,000 for Congress and staff to receive vaccines or other coronavirus-related care.
No hazard pay for frontline workers
Democrats tossed a $200 billion “hazard pay” provision that appeared in the last bill. It would have boosted pay for people unable to do their jobs from home during the pandemic, including healthcare workers, grocery-store workers, and federal employees. Frontline workers would have been eligible to receive an extra $13 an hour.