All sorts of ideas are being bounced around, including another stimulus check.
Democrats have been ready to move on another stimulus bill for a while, but, finally, it looks as though a package might come together and soon.
Before leaving on their two-week July 4 recess, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell gave his clearest signal yet that Republicans are willing to move swiftly on another coronavirus relief package. The Kentucky Republican said that the Senate will focus on the next coronavirus package when it returns from their recess with the goal of finishing before both chambers depart for their lengthy August break.
Why are the Republicans finally ready to get to work on a bill? Here both financial and political analyst seem to agree, the climbing cases of coronavirus are in states that voted Republican in 2016 and the stimulus package could help push members of that party to provide more support, particularly because it’s an election year.
In addition, for 46 states, July 1 is the start of the fiscal year. Because 49 states aren’t allowed to run deficits that will mean an uptick in state and local layoffs unless something changes. Add in the extra $600 weekly in unemployment benefits is set to expire in late July, and elected officials have a lot of reasons to act sooner, rather than later.
More stimulus checks
The federal CARES Act that was passed in March included $1,200 stimulus checks for millions of Americans. President Donald Trump signaled in a recent interview that he would be open to sending out more checks to Americans.
“We will be doing another stimulus package,” Trump said. “It’ll be very good. It’ll be very generous.”
The Democratic-led House has passed a bill called the HEROES Act that includes a second set of stimulus checks — only this time the payments would be more generous. Families would be able to receive up to $6,000, as dependents would get $1,200, up from $500, for a maximum of three children. Adult dependents and non-Americans would also be eligible for the stimulus funds.
Still, some experts say that stimulus checks don’t necessarily target those who need the money the most. For many Americans who are not living on federal benefits, the amount they received was determined by their 2018 or 2019 tax returns, not what they are earning this year.
But the money did have a stimulating effect on the economy with discretionary income up year over year in April.
Extra unemployment benefits
The added unemployment benefits — $600 per week — were also put in place with the CARES Act and are set to expire in late July.
That has prompted many to petition Congress to continue those benefits. House Democrats outlined a plan to do just that in the HEROES Act, which would extend that extra money through January.
But this week Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called the cash a “bonus not to go back to work.” Basic unemployment benefits should be continued, he said.
Senate Democrats also unveiled a proposal to continue those enhanced benefits until states’ unemployment rates fall, at which point they would be phased out.
While Republicans may not like this benefit, with 10 million Americans still unemployed and with 10 million job openings, there are still a lot of Americans in need of unemployment benefits.
Some economists have proposed reducing the extra $600 per week to up to $400 per week in order to eliminate the disincentive to return to work.
Republicans have favored another perk to give Americans an incentive to work again. These so-called back-to-work bonuses could take different forms.
Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, has a plan to give Americans who return to work a $450 weekly bonus. Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, has proposed giving returning workers a one-time $1,200 payment.
Senators have proposed a $50/month benefit to workers who have been laid off or furloughed during the pandemic, to ensure families can access critical online services. This bill would more formally assure families don’t lose broadband access. Internet providers had voluntarily pledged to help consumers continue to access internet service during the pandemic, but that program was over at the end of June
WHAT ELSE TO WATCH FOR
McConnell has repeatedly indicated he wants liability protections for employers who could be sued by their employees for getting sick; Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said he backs infrastructure spending and even a minimum wage increase; and Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Tex.) has proposed including a payroll tax cut in a next stimulus bill.