On Monday, the Senate Republicans released their proposal for the next stimulus bill, titled the HEALS Act.
Key parts of the CARES Act, the first coronavirus relief package passed in March, are set to expire by the end of this month. Congress has been scrambling to develop a new stimulus package to boost the economy and help essential workers as the coronavirus pandemic continues.
The House passed the HEROES Act back in May to help front-line workers, which would cost $3 trillion. The Senate Republicans were not satisfied with its price tag; instead, their proposal is estimated to cost around $1 trillion.
Parts of the GOP proposed bill are similar to the CARES Act while others will likely lead to negotiations with Democrats and even other Republicans. Here are the key elements of the proposed bill.
Cut Unemployment Benefits by $400
While the CARES Act gave $600 per week to unemployed workers, the new bill would reduce unemployment benefits to $200 per week. Senate Republicans hope to eventually limit unemployment benefits to be 70% of pre-pandemic income. The $200 a-week payment would be temporary as states have two months to install an unemployment program ensuring the 70% rule.
$1,200 Stimulus Check
Like the first relief package, the new bill would provide $1,200 one-time stimulus payments. Income limits for those receiving the $1,200 stimulus checks are $75,000 for individuals and $150,000 for families with a $500 additional check for each dependent in a family.
Aid to Reopening Schools
The bill includes $100 billion for schools reopening in the fall. In recent weeks, President Trump has pushed to reopen schools despite public health warnings.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s made it clear that new stimulus packages must include liability insurance to protect for schools, businesses, and other entities that reopen amid the pandemic from lawsuits.
The legislation would have federal courts handle lawsuits related to “personal injuries arising from coronavirus exposure allegedly caused at a school, college, charity, church, government agency, or business” and “for medical liability claims arising out of the provision of care for coronavirus, or services provided as a result of coronavirus, by licensed healthcare facilities and healthcare workers.”
Democrats and labor unions have criticized McConnell’s liability protections, arguing it would shield businesses that don’t adequately protect its employees while also providing no recourse for workers who do get the virus.
“What they’re saying to essential workers, ‘you have to go to work because you’re essential. We’ve placed no responsibility on your employer to make that workplace safe,'” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said.
Democrats have voiced their opposition to the HEALS Act saying it fails to adequately aid those most hurt by the pandemic. Various Republicans also disagree with the bill. However, Congress must come together to negotiate a package to help Americans as previous federal aid comes to an end.
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