The Road to a Second Stimulus Package
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was passed by Congress and signed into law on March 27. The $2 trillion relief package received bipartisan support and provided direct economic assistance for workers, families, and businesses alike. In the months following the CARES Act’s passage, COVID-19 has continued to accelerate, and the United States remains the global leader in both cases and deaths. Many have wondered if additional aid is on the way to help those who are struggling. Those in government agree that additional aid is needed, however, the magnitude of aid and the mechanism for providing it continue to be hotly contested by Democrats and Republicans.
Here is a breakdown of each party’s proposed stimulus package and where lawmakers stand in finding a middle ground to pass additional relief legislation.
HEROES vs HEALS
In response to the demand for another major economic relief package, both major political parties have proposed stimulus packages to mitigate the economic impacts of COVID-19. In July, Senate Republicans put forward the Healthcare, Economic Assistance, Liability, and Schools (HEALS) Act, which proposed a total of $1 trillion in additional aid. Democrats proposed their own package, the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act, which proposed an additional $3 trillion in stimulus dollars.
So, what’s the difference?
Both packages follow the footprint of the CARES Act by allowing for single Americans earning under $75,000 to receive $1,200 of direct government payment; joint filers earning under $125,000 would receive $2,400. The packages differ, however, on additional payment for individuals with qualified dependents.
$1,200 each for up to three qualified dependents
$500 for each qualified dependent
The CARES Act provided an additional $600 per week of federal unemployment benefits in addition to state provided funds. The HEROES Act mirrors this provision, while the HEALS Act proposes a short-term payment of $200 per week, which would later be replaced with a payment up to $500 that, when combined with state benefits, would replace up to 70 percent of lost wages. Republicans later modified this amount to $300 for the rest of the year. The HEALS Act also provides a bonus of up to $450 per week for undeployed workers who secure a new job or are rehired.
Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)
The CARES Act allocated $659 billion in forgivable loans to small businesses. In order to qualify for forgiveness of this loan, businesses were required to use 75 percent on payroll expenses. The HEROES Act expands eligibility for the program and removes the 75 percent payroll use requirement. The HEALS Act expands eligibility and permits the use of PPP funds while also allocating an additional $190 billion (later revised to $250 billion) into the PPP fund and allowing businesses to request a second loan. The HEALS Act also removes the 75 percent payroll use limit.
Employee tax credit
The CARES Act provides a payroll tax credit to businesses equal to 50 percent of up to $10,000 of qualified wages paid per employee during a quarter.
Increased credit of 80 percent of up to $15,000 in wages
Increased credit of 65 percent of up to $30,000 in wages
The CARES Act did not provide funding for schools and higher education institutions. The HEROES Act would provide $58 billion for grades K-12, and $42 billion for higher education institutions to use when adapting to the new normal. The HEALS Act calls for $70 billion of funding to K-12 schools that reopen for in-person learning, $29 billion for higher education, and additional funding to states and the Bureau of Indian Education.
$58 billion for grades K-12 and $42 billion for higher education
$70 billion for grades K-12 and $29 billion for higher education
Each version of legislation also contains some specialized provisions not addressed by the opposing party’s proposed package. For example, the HEROES Act specifically provides additional eviction protection for nearly all rental properties and extends the eviction moratorium set under the CARES Act. It also allocates $200 billion for housing programs and $100 billion for rental assistance. The HEALs act does not have provisions regarding eviction protection but it provides a five-year liability protection from coronavirus related lawsuits for schools, businesses, and hospitals.
Where do things stand?
Both parties hoped to agree on some form of a stimulus package before Congress’s August recess, however, they have been unable to reach consensus on a package that each group believes meets the needs of the American people. Since the initial proposals, each party’s package has undergone significant modifications and will likely continue to be modified in an effort to reach a deal that will gain approval from both sides. Following the recess, negotiations have mostly stagnated and it remains unclear when, and if, Congress will agree on bipartisan legislation. As the pandemic rages on, the need for assistance will only increase for the millions of Americans facing financial difficulties. Time will tell how each party will respond to this growing demand and if bipartisan relief is possible in today’s strongly divided political climate.