Coronavirus Relief Stalls: Updates on New Stimulus Package
August 27, 2020 in covid-19 tax relief
The economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic has led to the highest unemployment rate in the United States since the Great Depression. This year, the federal government has passed several bills that offer relief to Americans who have been impacted by COVID-19, including the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. This $2.2 trillion economic stimulus package is responsible for many types of much needed financial relief, including one time Economic Impact Payments (also known as stimulus checks), expanded unemployment benefits, and a $600 weekly unemployment bonus.
Aid efforts like those allocated by the CARES Act have been a lifeline for many Americans during this time of record unemployment. However, now, these forms of relief are beginning to expire– and it’s unclear whether or not lawmakers will be able to pass a new stimulus package.
The Current State of the Next Stimulus Package
The next stimulus package has been stalled by partisan disagreements. On May 15, a Democrat-created proposal for the next stimulus package passed in the House of Representatives. But this Democratic proposal, called the Heroes Act, was not supported by Republicans in the Senate, so Senate and House Democrats had to wait for Republicans to create a proposal in order to start negotiations. Near the end of July, Republicans finally produced their own proposal called the HEALS Acts. Instead of being a cohesive bill, the HEALS Act is a composite of multiple bills written by different Republican Senators. The composite nature of the HEALS Act reflects the infighting happening among Senate Republicans, who disagree about stimulus policies.
After the HEALS Act was presented in the Senate, negotiations between Senate Republicans and Democrats began, but would not prove fruitful. Senate Democrats and Republicans are divided on numerous core aspects of the new stimulus package, including the overall amount of relief funds, the income cap for the second stimulus check, the amount of aid sent to states, liability protection for reopened businesses, and the type of relief that should be allocated to unemployment benefits. Unemployment benefits in particular have been hotly debated in the Senate. Senate Democrats want to extend the $600 weekly unemployment insurance bonus introduced by the CARES Act, while Senate Republicans want to reduce, eliminate, or change expanded unemployment benefits.
The Senate set a self-imposed deadline for pandemic-related stimulus negotiations to end on August 7, when most Senators were set to leave Washington due to a scheduled August recess. This deadline came and went but no agreement was reached, leaving many lawmakers to wonder if making a deal would even be possible.
On August 8, President Donald Trump took executive action due to the Senate’s inability to reach an agreement. President Trump passed four executive actions that covered eviction protections, student loan relief, payroll tax deferment, and supplemental federal unemployment benefits. These executive orders from the White House were immediately criticized among legislators, however, since they may not be able to be implemented legally.
Next Steps Toward Passing a New Stimulus Package
Currently, Congress has stalled in its stimulus package negotiations and will not be back in session until after Labor Day. President Trump passed four executive actions, but it’s unclear whether or not they will be implemented, or if they’ll affect Congressional negotiations.
For now, Americans will likely have to wait until Congress is back in session to see a stimulus bill pass. The earliest a bill could pass would be mid-September, but it’s likely that relief package negotiations could drag on into October.