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We’re still at the front end of what government will do to help the people through what could either be a recession or a full-on depression caused by the near-complete economic hiatus everyone hopes will slow or stop the spread of Covid-19.
Lawmakers have already passed two bills to a deal with the coronavirus outbreak. They’re now at work on a much larger third stimulus. On Thursday, Senate Republicans unveiled a $1 trillion proposal.
Here’s a look at what lawmakers have done so far and what we know about what is under discussion for additional relief.
What’s already passed
March 4 – Vaccine research, aid to state governments. House approves an $8.3 billion bill to drastically ramp up vaccine research, give funding to state health officials, beef up prevention programs and more. (The proposal was several times larger than the original White House request).
March 18 – Sick leave, family leave. Senate approves a $104 billion bill that would give direct help to many Americans, including:
2-week paid sick leave for ill or quarantined workers
Who gets it? Not everyone. Only people being tested or treated for coronavirus or have been diagnosed with it. Also eligible would be those who have been told by a doctor or government official to stay home because of exposure or symptoms.
What does it pay? Payments will be capped at $511 a day, roughly what someone making $133,000 earns annually.
Who pays for it? Employers to begin with, but they can then recoup the cost with a federal tax credit. Note: This was originally going to be a more generous benefit for workers, but Republicans in the Senate balked at the effect on businesses.
2-week paid sick leave for other workers
Who gets it? Workers with family members affected by coronavirus and those whose children’s schools have closed.
What does it pay? These workers will receive up to two-thirds of their pay, though that benefit is limited to $200 a day. That would cover two-thirds of the typical daily wage of someone earning up to about $75,000 annually.
Who pays for it? The same federal tax credit, though employers will have to pay out the benefit up front.
Paid family leave
Who gets it? Those whose children’s schools have closed. The number of people affected by school closures will run into many millions. Note: This benefit was originally open to those who were tested, diagnosed, being treated or quarantined for coronavirus or caring for an affected family member.
What does it pay? People who can’t work would still receive up to two-thirds of their pay, though that benefit is limited to $200 a day, which is about two-thirds of the typical daily wage of someone earning up to about $75,000.
How long does it last? This benefit lasts up to a total of 12 weeks, including two weeks of sick leave. Note that many schools could be closed through the end of the year.
Who pays for it? Again, businesses on the front end. But they’d be reimbursed through federal tax credits.
Here’s the fine print
Who’s cut out? Employers could exclude health care workers and emergency responders from either paid leave provision, amid fears of staffing shortages among medical providers.
What if employers can’t pay? Most of the 35 million American workers at small businesses don’t currently get paid family leave. Small businesses – fewer than 50 employees – can apply for financial hardship waivers from the leave provisions affecting workers whose children are out of school.
What about large employers? Companies with more than 500 employees are exempt. But they usually already provide some pared back level of paid leave.
So who else could this actually help? The leave provisions also benefit part-timers, the self-employed and those in the gig economy, who typically don’t have paid sick or family leave.
Free testing, food stamps, Medicaid – The bill also includes free coronavirus testing for all Americans, additional funding for Medicaid and more flexibility for states to provide SNAP benefits, or food stamps. It is also temporarily lifting the requirement that certain adults without dependent children work in order to receive food stamps for more than three months.
What’s still on the table: Rebate checks and more
What’s being negotiated now is a massive $1 trillion-plus stimulus bill. It seems like something will pass. We just don’t know what it will be yet. Here’s more on the proposals, the most concrete of which came from Senate Republicans Thursday evening.
$1,000 checks – The Trump administration, following the lead of Sen. Mitt Romney and former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang, wants to send out one or more $1,000 checks directly to Americans. It is not yet clear if there will be limits on who gets these checks. A Senate proposal suggests up to $1,200 for a person and $2,400 for a couple.
$3,000 for a family of four – Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that under a White House idea, a family of four could get up to $3,000 when payments for two adults and smaller payments for children are combined.
There’s precedent for these types of direct payments during the George W. Bush administration – in 2001 and during the Great Recession in 2008.
Senate GOP would give slightly bigger checks to far fewer Americans – But Senate Republicans would rather give money to small businesses than individuals. They envision giving $1,200 ($2,400 for couples) and $500 for each dependent to people making less than $75,000 and a reduced among ($5 for every $100) for people who make between $75,000 and $99,000.
Bailouts for airlines, hotel, travel industries – Airlines have asked for $50 billion and Trump has expressed a willingness to help them and other travel-related industries. The Senate proposal would give airlines and other affected industries $200 billion in loans.
Conditions for aid? Government equity stakes? – On Thursday, Trump expressed interest in the US government taking ownership stakes in companies that had engaged in stock buybacks and other schemes. The government did not take ownership stakes in US banks and sold ownership stakes it took in auto companies after it bailed them out a decade ago. Trump’s endorsement is an off-brand take for Republicans, so it’ll be interesting to see if it gains steam.
Aid for small businesses – It’s the small and neighborhood businesses, along with the travel industry, that might be hit hardest by the slowdown. The Senate proposal would give $300 billion in bridge loans to them.
Who is writing this bill? It’s clear that Senate Republicans, forced to “gag” and allow the paid family leave proposal to pass, are taking a more active approach in shaping this bill. Democrats like Sen. Chuck Schumer have complained they are being cut out of the process.
While Republicans are writing the proposal, Democrats have their own ideas. Schumer described a massive ramping up of help for the unemployed. “A thousand dollars goes by pretty quickly if you’re unemployed. In contrast, expanded unemployment insurance – beefed-up unemployment insurance – covers you for a much longer time and would provide a much bigger safety net,” he said on the Senate floor.
It could be hard for Congress to physically vote on anything. Several members have tested positive for Covid-19 and there is a push for something unprecedented in US history: remote voting.
White House action
The Trump administration has a lot of power to help affected Americans.
Late penalties will be waived for most tax filers. HUD will halt some foreclosures.
What’s going on in states
Emergency workers: Grocery clerks – In Minnesota, grocery store workers have been classified as essential employees and granted free childcare.
Banning foreclosures – California’s governor is allowing local governments to temporarily halt foreclosures related to coronavirus.
Unemployment benefits – Some states are waiving one-week waiting periods and relaxing certain rules to make it easier for their newly jobless residents to access these funds.
CLARIFICATION: This story has been updated to reflect the current proposed income threshold for payments under a GOP stimulus plan and to add context on the US bailout for auto companies during the Great Recession.
CNN’s Tami Luhby contributed to this report.