Next stimulus bill: HEALS Act contains much more than just another check


Proposals under consideration in Washington could provide financial support during the pandemic.


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The proposed HEALS Act that Senate Republicans rolled out on Monday includes a second stimulus check. But a payment of up to $1,200 for qualifying individuals is just one slice of the Senate stimulus proposal. If passed, it would also renew enhanced unemployment assistance, though offering significantly less financial support than March’s CARES Act, and pledge more than $100 billion to school reopening.

Some, however, think the next stimulus package could accomplish much more. On Monday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer tweeted, “The GOP plan does not meet this moment.”

The final shape of the stimulus package will emerge through rounds of bipartisan negotiations that have already started. Here are the major pieces Democrats, Republicans and White House officials are pushing to include in the next stimulus package — and how likely we are to get them before Aug. 7, the last day before the Senate’s monthlong August recess.

This story updates constantly with new information.

Second stimulus check: Designed to spur spending

What it is: A payment sent to qualifying individuals and families, based on annual income, age, number of dependents and other factors. The first stimulus checks authorized under the CARES Act have gone out to over 160 million Americans — either as a check, prepaid credit card or direct deposit. But not without a hitch, and after three months some are still waiting for their payment.

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How it could help you: The payment is not taxable, and you can use it however you want to pay for food, housing, clothing and so on. The idea is that spending the checks helps the economy recover faster.

Why we think a second check will pass: The CARES act authorized payments up to $1,200 per eligible adult and so does the HEALS Act. The House of Representatives’ HEROES Act, meanwhile, called for $1,200 stimulus checks, but for more people. The White House also supports another round of checks, which makes this a likely part of the final bill.

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The HEALS Act proposes to give eligible Americans the same-size stimulus check as in March.


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Extended modified unemployment benefits for jobless Americans

What it is: An additional weekly check for people who applied for unemployment for the first time or were already collecting unemployment. The program initially granted by the CARES Act provided an extra $600 per week and expired on Saturday, but lawmakers are looking into another unemployment boost now.

Why we think it could happen: Republicans have already supported an extension, though at a reduced rate, saying $600 a week is too generous. “We have learned what we knew at the time,” Grassley said Monday, “That when you pay people more not to work than they would get working, what do you expect? People will not work. And what this country needs is more workers.”

But with new unemployment claims exceeding $1 million each week for more than four months and 31.8 million people in total claiming benefits this month, the White House and Senate are under pressure to renew the benefit. The Senate proposal for extending the benefits will be based on 70% to 75% of lost wages, Grassley said, starting at $200 a week and over time increasing to $500 a week, with state assistance.

How it could help you: An extra weekly payment on top of the ordinary unemployment benefit gives individuals and families a leg up, and cutting it off or reducing it could be devastating for both unemployed workers and the economy. 

“Each dollar of unemployment insurance boosts economywide spending by $2,” said Lily Roberts, director of economic mobility at the Center for American Progress. “The Economic Policy Institute estimates that letting the $600 unemployment insurance extension expire would by itself lead to more job loss than happened in the recessions of the early 1990s or early 2000s.”

Payroll Protection Program to help businesses retain employees

What it is: Intended to help you retain your job, the Paycheck Protection Program provides forgivable loans to small businesses as an incentive to keep employees on the payroll. 

How it could help you: The program is designed to fund workers employed who would otherwise have lost their jobs during the pandemic. The program got off to a rocky start, and it’s not clear the PPP met the goals Congress set for it. 

“Overall PPP hasn’t preserved many paychecks,” wrote Joshua Gotbaum, a guest scholar of economic studies at the Brookings Institution. “A careful study [PDF] found that PPP-eligible small businesses laid people off just as quickly as other businesses,” he said.

Why we think it could get extended: The Republican proposal will target the hardest-hit small businesses, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine said Monday, including those with revenue losses of 50% or more over last year.

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A tax credit would help with your pay.


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Employee retention tax credit would help pay wages

What it is: Under the program, an employer can receive refundable tax credits for wages paid to an employee during the pandemic. The employer can then use the credits to subtract from — and even receive a refund over — taxes they owe.

How it could help you: Again, it’s not a direct payment to you, but the program encourages businesses to keep workers on the payroll.

Why we think it could happen: Grassley said the HEALS Act includes further tax relief for business who for hire and rehire workers and the Democrat-backed Heroes Act also builds on the tax credits that were part of the initial CARES Act. And there’s additional bipartisan support besides.

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Return-to-work bonus of up to $450 per week

What it is: A temporary weekly bonus for unemployed workers who secure a new job or are rehired, on top of their wages. As proposed by Sen. Rob Portman, a Republican from Ohio, the bonus would be $450 a week.

How it could help you: Under Portman’s plan, the weekly bonus would go to laid-off workers who return to work.

Why we think it may not happen: The White House in May expressed interest in the bonus and Portman continues to support the idea. White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow did suggest it would be part of the HEALS proposal, but McConnell and the other Senate presenters didn’t mention a bonus on Monday.

Rental assistance to fend off evictions

What it is: This plan would help renters pay rent and assist landlords with expenses with less rent money coming in, especially as the US faces a potential “tsunami of evictions.”

How it could help you: The rental assistance program would temporarily help you pay rent if you qualify, put a hold on evictions for a year and help cover costs of rental property owners because of rental payment shortfalls.

Why we think it could happen: House Democrats included an eviction moratorium in its proposed Heroes Act. It was not part of the Senate presentation on Monday, and these protections have now lapsed.

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Payroll tax cuts may not make the cut in the next coronavirus relief bill, currently known as CARES Act 2.


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Payroll tax cut so workers receive bigger paychecks

What it is: President Donald Trump has for months pushed the idea of including temporary payroll tax cuts in the next stimulus package. The proposal could include cutting both the employer and employee share of payroll taxes.

How it could help you: If you have a job, a payroll tax cut would let you keep more of your earnings each check. The plan would not help those who are unemployed and don’t receive a paycheck. As of July 4, the nearly 32 million people who were claiming unemployment insurance would not benefit.

Why we don’t think it’ll happen: Neither the Heroes Act nor the current Senate plan includes a payroll tax cut. Even Trump seems to have given up on the plan.

“I would have preferred a payroll tax cut, on top of that check,” Kudlow said on Sunday. “But, be that as it may, politically it doesn’t work.”

Until we know for sure what the finalized stimulus bill will bring, there are some resources to help you through the financial crisis, including coronavirus hardship loans and unemployment insurancewhat you can do if you’ve lost your jobwhat to know about evictions and late car payments; how to take control of your budget; and if you could receive two refund checks from the IRS.





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