Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Photo: Ting Shen/Xinhua via Getty Images
After days of intense debate, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and other Republican leaders rolled out a roughly $1 trillion proposal for the next round of coronavirus relief funding, which has the White House's seal of approval.
Why it matters: The HEALS Act (health, economic assistance, liability protection, schools) is viewed as a GOP marker for broader negotiations, since both Democrats and some Republicans have expressed dissatisfaction with key aspects of the bill. It's expected to change significantly in the coming days.
- Washington leaders are hopeful they can pass a final bill by mid-August, though that timetable will be extremely difficult given the stark differences in opinion on the substance of the legislation.
- The price tag is also expected to increase given that Democrats want a $4 trillion package, despite sharp opposition from deficit hawks like Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.). GOP leaders have begrudgingly admitted they'll need to meet Democrats somewhere in the middle.
What they're saying: "It will take bipartisan cooperation to put the HEALS Act into law for the American people. The Senate will not waste time with pointless partisanship," McConnell said on the Senate floor.
- "There's a a reason why even Speaker Pelosi and Leader Schumer themselves have publicly downplayed the multi-trillion dollar socialist manifesto they published some weeks back, and have suggested the real serious discussion would begin when Republicans released our outline."
- "We have produced a tailored and targeted draft that will cut right to the heart of three distinct crises facing our country. Getting kids back in school, getting workers back to work, and winning the health care fight against the virus. Kids, jobs, and health care."
Key provisions in the Republican proposal, which was released in pieces Monday night:
- Unemployment benefits will be extended, but at 70% of an individual's lost wages rather than the $600 weekly benefit Americans were receiving under the CARES Act. Unemployed Americans will receive a $200 flat weekly benefit until states, many of which have outdated systems, are able to calculate the 70% targeted insurance. The $200 weekly benefit is in addition to state unemployment benefits.
- The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) will be extended. Small businesses with 300 or fewer employees that show a revenue loss of 50% will be able to apply for a second loan.
- Stimulus checks will be doled out under the same guidelines as in the CARES Act. Direct payments of $1,200 will be available to individuals with a yearly income of up to $75,000.
- Back to work child care grants: This is a key White House priority and is seen as a retention benefit for businesses.
- Schools will get $105 billion, according to Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.). Roughly $70 billion will go toward K-12 (K-12 schools that reopen will get more immediate access to the funds). $30 billion will go toward higher education. $5 billion will be set aside to give governors flexibility. (Democrats want $430 billion for schools and childcare centers.)
- Widespread liability protection, which covers claims against a defendant caused by “an actual, alleged, feared or potential exposure to coronavirus.” It covers all alleged injuries that arise from conduct taking place between Dec. 1, 2019, and either the end of the coronavirus emergency declaration or Oct. 1, 2024.
- Billions for coronavirus testing. This is much more than what the White House had initially wanted and more in line with what Senate Republicans pushed for.
- State and local governments will not receive additional funding. Instead, the bill extends the time frame in which governments can utilize the $150 billion in funding from the CARES Act while also providing more flexibility — allowing some funds to be used to cover revenue shortfalls.
Worth noting: There will not be a payroll tax cut, despite Trump's early insistence that it be included, due to bipartisan opposition on Capitol Hill.
- But the bill does include $1.75 billion for a new FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C. — something the administration pushed for.
Read explainers on the GOP proposals for:
- Liability protections
- The Paycheck Protection Program
- School funding
- Unemployment benefits & stimulus checks
- The TRUST Act
- Supply chains
- Student loans
- Education scholarships
- Back to work childcare grants
- Additional COVID-19 funding