Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is expected to lay out a $1 trillion stimulus package Monday that addresses financial assistance to schools, more money for COVID-19 virus testing, and a second direct payment stimulus check to millions of Americans.
The bill, which McConnell, R-Kentucky, is calling CARES 2, will be presented by eight senators, each explaining a component of the legislation.
McConnell said that eight Republican senators will each introduce a component of the bill on Monday. The senators presenting the bill are Chuck Grassley, Iowa; Lamar Alexander, Tennessee; Susan Collins, Maine; Marco Rubio, Florida; Richard Shelby, Alabama; Roy Blunt, Missouri; John Cornyn, Texas; and Mitt Romney, Utah.
McConnell explained last week that the plan would have three legs, addressing children, jobs and the economy, and health care.
He broke it down this way:
Schools across the country are struggling with the question of whether they will reopen for on-site learning, virtually, or some combination of the two. Educators worry about the safety of students and staff while parents are wondering how they can provide homeschooling and supervision when they have to leave home for their jobs.
“We need as many K-12 schools, colleges, and universities as possible to be safely welcoming students this fall,” McConnell said. “So, Chairman Alexander, Chairman Shelby and Chairman Blunt are finalizing an ambitious package of funding and policy to help our schools reopen.”
“They will layout a reopening-related funding package for schools and universities north of $100 billion. That’s more money than House Democrats proposed for a similar fund.”
“And there will be several important policies to help child care providers grant new flexibility to elementary and secondary schools, and more.”
Jobs and the economy
Direct payments to millions of American households and funds to shore up small businesses were included in the first CARES Act and will be included in the bill to be presented Monday.
McConnell said Grassley will explain the second round of direct payments to be sent to American households.
While specifics about the amount and just who will be getting the direct payments were not announced, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said last week that the stimulus check in CARES 2 will be the same as the stimulus check in the first Cares Act.
That payment included $1,200 for adults and $500 per dependent child for those making up to $75,000 per year. Couples got $2,400 plus $500 per child on incomes of $150,000 per year.
Democrats say more money is needed for families. The House passed the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act (HEROES Act) in May, which included a provision to send Americans a one-time payment of $1,200 per adult, as well as $1,200 for dependent children.
A program that provided loans to businesses will be revisited in the Senate bill. The Paycheck Protection Program, or PPP, is a Small Business Administration loan that helps businesses keep their workforce employed during the COVID-19 pandemic, which is included in the CARES 2 legislation.
“Sen. Collins and Sen. Rubio have crafted a sequel to their historic and incredibly successful Paycheck Protection Program,” McConnell said. “It would give the hardest-hit small businesses an opportunity to receive a second loan if they continue paying their workers.”
Millions lost their jobs when the pandemic hit and have depended on a federal unemployment insurance payment and state unemployment benefits to make ends meet.
McConnell said that the new bill will include “some form of federal supplement to unemployment insurance,” but would not continue the $600 weekly federal unemployment payments that were in the first CARES Act, saying that the new bill would fix “the obvious craziness of paying people more to remain out of the workforce.”
The $600 federal payments ran out last week. Mnuchin told Fox News Sunday that the legislation would likely aim at providing workers who have been laid off with unemployment insurance payments that equal 70% of their previous income.
McConnell said part of the bill will include money for businesses to encourage them to bring back laid-off workers and keep them on the job.
“Chairman Grassley will also layout bold policies to incentivize retention, encourage rehiring of laid-off Americans and help businesses obtain PPE, testing, and supplies to protect their employees and entice customers.”
The third leg of the bill will address health care. Additional resources will be made available to the health care system, along with money for vaccines and testing.
“So, as Chairmen Alexander, Blunt, Grassley, and Shelby will explain, CARES 2 will continue to treat the root causes of this medical crisis,” McConnell said.
The bill will include funds that will “leave us with better surge capacity to produce medical countermeasures right here at home the next time a crisis strikes.”
The majority leader also said that seniors would be shielded from a spike in Medicare premiums due to the pandemic that was declared in March. Medicare is the federal health insurance program for people who are 65 or older.
McConnell said that Romney will present a bipartisan bill to “help a future Congress evaluate bipartisan proposals for protecting and strengthening the programs that Americans count on.”
Cornyn’s role in the bill’s rollout was not explained in McConnell’s speech, but Cornyn recently sponsored a bill to “provide much-needed liquidity to America’s job creators.” The text of that bill has not yet been recorded.
CARES Act 2 will also include liability protection for health care workers, schools, churches, nonprofits and businesses, according to McConnell.
“And we will make sure that school districts, colleges, churches, nonprofits, and employers that obey official guidance do not have to delay reopening because they’re afraid they’ll spend 10 years in court.”
Other possible initiatives
A moratorium on evictions from buildings with a mortgage backed by the government that was included in the CARES Act has expired. That moratorium will likely be extended in this legislation, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow told CNN.
An Employee Retention Tax Credit was included in the first CARES Act and could be seen in the second one too. The tax credit is equal to 50% of qualified wages paid to an employee until January 2021, with a limit of $10,000 in wages per employee.
While the HEROES Act calls for more than a trillion dollars for state and local governments, that type of aid is not likely to be seen in this package, according to McConnell.
Time is running short if the Senate wants to get the bill negotiated and passed before the Senate takes its August recess, which begins on Aug. 10.
There is still some discussion as to whether the bill will be presented as one bill or several bills. On Sunday’s “This Week” from ABC, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows implied that unemployment insurance, funding for schools, a retention credit for businesses, and a liability shield may be included in a bill. Senators would then negotiate the rest of the legislation.
“Honestly I see us being able to provide unemployment insurance, maybe a retention credit to keep people from being displaced or brought back into the workplace, helping with our schools — if we can do that along with liability protections perhaps we put that forward, get that passed as we negotiate on the rest of the bill in the weeks to come,” Meadows said on ABC’s “This Week.”
Mnuchin said of stimulus checks to Americans that “We’ll get the majority of them out in August and those will help people.”
However, passage of the bill is not assured in the Senate where Republicans have a 53-47 majority.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, said Sunday on Fox News that many GOP senators were not on board with more stimulus spending.
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