Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell unveiled a trimmed-down stimulus bill Tuesday, more than a month after negotiations over the next economic aid package stalled in Congress.
The so-called “skinny” bill includes a $300 federal boost for unemployment benefits and fresh relief for small businesses, but cuts out money for a second round of stimulus checks that were included in an earlier GOP proposal. It also doesn’t offer new funding for cash-strapped states, which Democrats support.
The legislation could face a procedural vote as soon as Thursday, but has little chance of ever becoming law. There are still several Republicans threatening to vote against the new proposal and it’s unlikely to gain any support from Democrats – who are unified behind a much larger $3 trillion stimulus package that passed the House in May.
Republicans also put forth a $1 trillion stimulus bill in July, but it never came to a vote.
Here’s how the three different pieces of legislation compare:
GOP skinny bill: Would offer federal unemployment benefits of $300 through the week ending December 27, half of what Congress included in its March coronavirus relief package. Payments would be retroactive to the end of July, when the original $600 weekly supplement expired.
If approved, this $300 benefit would likely be in addition to the $300 weekly payment authorized by President Donald Trump in August. However, Trump’s benefit is being paid out of federal disaster relief funds and is only expected to last five weeks or so. Also, not everyone currently receiving unemployment benefits is eligible for Trump’s payment.
Previous GOP bill: Would slice the weekly federal enhancement to $200 for August and September. Starting in October, the unemployed would receive a payment that when combined with their state benefit would replace 70% of their lost wages through the end of the year. The supplement could not exceed $500 a week.
House Heroes Act: Would extend the weekly $600 federal boost until January 31. But it would allow workers in the traditional state benefits program by that date to continue collecting the federal supplement until the end of March.
However, those in the temporary federal expansion programs – including the pandemic unemployment assistance program, which Congress created in late March to allow freelancers, the self-employed and certain people affected by the pandemic to qualify for jobless benefits – would not receive the $600 enhancement after the end of January.
Money for small businesses
GOP skinny bill: Would allow some small businesses to apply for a second loan from the Paycheck Protection Program. That would be limited to those with fewer than 300 employees that have seen a drop of at least 35% of their revenue during the first or second quarter of 2020. It would also reduce the amount a borrower can receive from $10 million to $2 million and gives businesses more flexibility on how they spend the money.
Previous GOP bill: Would open up the Paycheck Protection Program for a second round of loans. But it would have limited the program to businesses that lost at least 50% of their revenue.
House Heroes Act: Did not include additional money for small business loans – in part because the program had not expired when that bill was passed in May.
GOP skinny bill: Would provide $105 billion in education funds, about two-thirds of which would be reserved for schools that reopen for in-person instruction.
It would also provide money for school choice scholarships that parents can use to send their child to a public or private school outside their home district and fund grants to eligible child care providers so that they can pay for cleaning supplies, safety equipment and other expenses.
Previous GOP bill: Like the skinny bill, it called for $105 billion in education funds, about two-thirds of which would be reserved for schools that reopen for in-person instruction.
House Heroes Act: Would provide $100 billion in education funds. It would not tie money to the way schools reopened.
Postal Service funding
GOP skinny bill: Would forgive a $10 billion loan to the US Postal Service under the March CARES Act, the more than $2 trillion relief package passed earlier this year. The USPS would have to meet certain criteria to have the loan forgiven.
Previous GOP bill: Would not provide additional funding for USPS.
House Heroes Act: Calls for a $25 billion emergency appropriation for USPS.
Liability protections for employers
GOP skinny bill: Would provide protections for employers against liability in any coronavirus-related lawsuits brought by workers. Employers would not be held liable unless workers’ claims met a stringent test. The bill states they must provide “clear and convincing evidence” that 1) the employer was not “making reasonable efforts” to comply with the latest pandemic-related safety guidance and standards; 2) that the employer was grossly negligent or willfully did something that caused “actual” exposure to the coronavirus; and 3) that the “actual” exposure caused personal injury to the workers.
In cases where workers allege they contracted Covid-19 through their workplace, they must provide a list of every place they went and every person they interacted with both inside and outside their home during the 14-day period before their onset of symptoms.
Previous GOP Bill: Contained similar language as the skinny bill.
House Heroes Bill: Democrats have opposed liability protections. Instead, they want to require new regulations from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration that would have employers create new plans to protect workers from exposure to Covid-19.
Liability protection for health care workers and facilities
GOP skinny bill: Would protect health care providers from coronavirus-related liability actions unless the plaintiffs can prove gross negligence or willful misconduct. Also, resource or staffing shortages would not be considered willful misconduct or gross negligence.
Original GOP bill: Contains similar language as the skinny bill.
House Heroes Bill: Does not contain any liability protections for health care providers.
What’s missing: Stimulus checks
GOP skinny bill: Does not include money for a second round of direct stimulus checks to Americans.
Previous GOP bill: Includes money for a second round of direct stimulus payments worth up to $1,200 for individuals and $2,400 for families. It would send an additional $500 per dependent, regardless of their age. The first round excluded dependents who were older than 17.
The size of the payments would again scale down – starting with individuals who earn more than $75,000 a year and married couples who earn more than $150,000 – and phase out all-together for higher income individuals.
House Heroes Act: Would provide for a second round of stimulus payments that would be more generous than the first. It calls for $1,200 per family member, and maxes out at $6,000 per household.
The size of the payments would again scale down – starting with individuals who earn more than $75,000 a year and married couples who earn more than $150,00 – and phase out all-together for higher income individuals.
What’s missing: Additional state aid
Previous GOP Bill: Would not provide more funding but would increase the time window and flexibility for states to utilize the initial $150 billion in funding to cover revenue shortfalls. Currently, those funds can only be used for coronavirus-related expenses.
Both state and local governments have been pressing Congress for months to send them more money to avoid massive spending cuts and layoffs.
GOP Skinny Bill: Would not provide additional assistance to state and local governments, even though they have been pressing lawmakers for months to send them more money to avoid massive spending cuts and layoffs. The skinny bill does extend the time that state and local governments can use the $150 billion Coronavirus Relief Fund money provided in the coronavirus package Congress passed in late March. The new date is September 30, 2021.
House Heroes Act: Would provide $500 billion to states and $375 billion to local governments, which can be used to replace lost tax revenue and shore up their budgets amid the pandemic.