- Senate Republicans’ proposal for continued COVID-19 relief would provide additional stimulus while reducing unemployment supplement
- Second round of Paycheck Protection Program would focus on small businesses
- Additional funds aim to relieve workers of child care burden
The approximately $1 trillion HEALS Act, proposed by Senate Republicans, aims to provide a second round of relief for businesses and workers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic as coronavirus cases spike in several parts of the country and reopening plans are reversed or paused. Here are some of the main provisions of the bill:
A second round of the Paycheck Prevention Program would allocate $190 billion to businesses with fewer than 300 employees whose revenues have fallen by at least 50 percent due to the pandemic. The provision acknowledges criticism of the first round of PPP, when several large companies benefited from the funds.
Another $100 billion would be earmarked for seasonal businesses and those in low-income Census tracts with a similar loss in revenue.
More than $100 billion from the first round of PPP has not been allocated, and companies have until Aug. 8 to submit an application for it.
The HEALS Act calls for a second round of stimulus checks, with individuals eligible for $1,200 and couples eligible for $2,400. In addition, qualifying households will receive $500 per dependent.
The stimulus is limited to those with an adjusted gross annual income of $75,000, or $150,000 for married couples filing jointly. Citizens earning more will receive checks that are reduced by $5 for each additional $100 earned, phasing out completely at $99,000 for singles and $198,000 for couples.
The Republican proposal calls for a reduction of additional federal unemployment insurance, which supplements state unemployment and is set to expire on July 31, from $600 to $200. A cap of 70 percent of one’s previous earnings would go into effect starting in October, with a maximum supplement of $500 a week.
Businesses, schools, doctors, and others would have a five-year shield against COVID-19 related lawsuits, except in the cases of “gross negligence” or “intentional misconduct.” Democrats have opposed this type of liability protection.
Schools and child care
The bill includes $10 billion in grants to child care providers to help cover the increased costs and operating expenses involved in re-enrolling children, though this funding would only be available until the end of September. Another $5 billion would go toward emergency assistance for child care providers affected by closures or a decline in enrollment.
The measure has the secondary goal of providing relief for workers who have had to balance their job with child care, but it has been criticized as insufficient due to projections that child care centers need $9.6 billion a month to avoid permanent shutdown. Democrats will propose $50 billion in child care relief in the House on Wednesday.
In addition, the HEALS Act calls for $105 billion to assist schools, including $30 billion for colleges. About $45 billion in aid for elementary and secondary schools would only be accessible if schools reopen in the fall, since this share of the funding would assist with costs schools would incur in safely resuming in-person instruction.
Kicking off negotiations
The bill is unlikely to pass, but will rather be the start of negotiations between political parties. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi derided it as “pathetic” and declared, “It isn’t serious.”
In May, House Democrats passed a $3 trillion relief bill that provided similar extensions to measures passed in the bipartisan CARES Act. Republicans criticized the proposal, saying several components go beyond the scope of COVID-19 relief.