$2 TRILLION DIFFERENCE REMAINS
by Sharon Rondeau
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi expressed a similar assessment on Friday.
A new bill would constitute Congress’s fifth measure in the wake of the national health emergency ushered in by the coronavirus in March, with the previous four being:
H.R. 6074: Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2020 — Enacted March 4, 2020. Provided $8.3 billion in emergency funding for federal agencies to respond to the coronavirus outbreak related to developing a vaccine, medical supplies, grants for public health agencies, small business loans, and assistance for health systems in other countries. Allowed for temporarily waiving Medicare restrictions and requirements regarding telehealth services.
H.R. 6201: Families First Coronavirus Response Act — Enacted March 18, 2020. Guaranteed free coronavirus testing, established paid leave, enhanced unemployment insurance, expanded food security initiatives, and increased federal Medicaid funding.
H.R. 748: Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act — Enacted March 27, 2020. A $2 trillion coronavirus relief bill, which will send $1,200 to each American making $75,000 a year or less, add $600/week to unemployment benefits for four months, give $100 billion to hospitals and health providers, make $500 billion of loans or investments to businesses, states and municipalities, and $32 billion in grants to the airline industry, and more.
H.R. 266: Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act — Enacted April 24, 2020. A $484 billion relief bill that went to replenish the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) for small businesses and to public health measures such as virus testing and hospital funding.
Federal unemployment benefits extended by the CARES Act passed in March expired Friday without a new measure in place to extend or continue them. Republicans wish to reduce what was a $600 weekly benefit in addition to standard unemployment compensation to $200, while Democrats, who rejected a proposal to extend the benefits for one week on Thursday, faulted Republicans for failing to begin negotiations on a new bill sooner.
Republicans’ proposal, named the “HEALS Act,” provides funding to assist schools to reopen in the fall, for adults who provide caregiver services to family members, small-business tax credits and a new FBI building.
As for the proposed proposed $200 payments, Pelosi said the Republicans “have no support for it in their party.”
The two parties’ envisioned spending is $2 trillion apart, with Republicans favoring $1 trillion and Democrats $3 trillion.
According to Texas Rep. Chip Roy, the $600 payments over and above state unemployment benefits have made it more difficult for restaurant owners in his district to find workers. Upon passage of the CARES Act, some Republicans were critical of the fact that some recipients would receive more in unemployment compensation than they would have had their jobs not been shuttered due to the closure of much of the U.S. economy in March and April.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy predicted a new bill would not be passed by July 31 but rather, by “the first week of August.”
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows have been conducting negotiations with Pelosi and Senate Democrat minority leader Chuck Schumer. The group will meet again Monday morning, CNBC reported.
According to Mnuchin, Democrats and Republicans have agreed that a new bill should include payments of $1,200 made directly to qualifying Americans, as they were under the CARES Act. The White House also supports it.
In May, the House passed a $3 trillion bill intended to assist hard-hit states with budget and revenue shortfalls, dispatch additional direct payments to Americans, and provide additional funding for the U.S. Postal Service which the Republican-led Senate did not consider. At the time, the unemployment rate was 14.7%; the latest figure available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) as of the end of June is 11.1%.
According to NPR, approximately 30 million Americans were receiving the extra unemployment benefits.
Although NPR reported Sunday that “most” of the House had “gone home,” on Friday House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer announced the cancellation of the traditional August recess “until a deal on a bill is reached,” as quoted by CBS News.