Both prospects and frustrations grew over the weekend over the future of, with calls from everyone from Sen. Bernie Sanders to President Donald Trump to .
“House and Senate Democrats stand united and ready to meet the Republicans half way,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a letter to Democratic colleagues. Likewise, Sen. Bernie Sanders took to CNN Sunday to say, “Democrats, three months ago, addressed that,” Sanders, referring to theahead of , which are likely to see an increase in caused by the .
Meanwhile on Twitter, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows blamed Democrats in a tweet for “holding up a relief bill (including stimulus checks and small business relief) until they get more of their policy wishlist demands included.”
The key issues being bandied about by both sides that a broader relief package could address include funding the safe, reinstating some form of and a of for .
If negotiations begin again soon on Capitol Hill and new legislation is passed — whether a final package or standalone bills — here’s what to expect in talks. Check back on this story for new developments.
1. Funding for the USPS
What it is: Keeping the US Postal Service funded is considered pivotal in the upcoming elections, which is expected to see up to 80 million people voting by mail. The Democratic-backed, which passed the House in May, allocated $25 billion in order to replace “revenue forgone due to coronavirus.” Under the Republican-backed , there’s no additional funding for the USPS. So far, Trump has opposed funding for the USPS.
How it could help you: The money is intended to “continue meeting delivery standards during the unprecedented coronavirus pandemic,” which could be even more important as efforts toward more widespread mail-in voting grow ahead of the election.
Why it’s up in the air: At this point, both sides seem to be using funding as a bargaining chip for the larger stimulus package, though it could pass as a standalone bill. And now, the question is tied up in the broader controversy of changes to the USPS that could affect mail-in voting, which promoted Democratic leaders over the weekend to call for testimony from Postmaster General Louis DeJoy.
2. A different unemployment benefit for workers out of a job
What it is: Anfor people who applied for unemployment for the first time or were already collecting unemployment. The CARES Act provided an extra $600 per week, but that benefit officially . Lawmakers from both sides want to renew this.
How it could help you: An extra weekly payment on top of the ordinary unemployment benefit gives individuals and families a leg up. Cutting it off or reducing it could be devastating for unemployed workers and the economy.
What Trump’s memorandum brings: It seeks to create a program to provide $400 per week, with a (retroactive) start date of Aug. 1, and calls for it to end when the program reaches “$25 billion or for weeks of unemployment ending not later than Dec. 6, 2020, whichever occurs first.” The plan requires states picking up some of the cost, but some governors say the administration’s plan doesn’t go far enough. There’s also a question as to how many people it can realistically cover given the $25 billion limit, and the fact that an act of Congress typically is required to authorize this type of spending.
Where negotiations stood before: Republicans support the extension, but at a reduced rate. Democrats support a resumption of the now-expired $600 rate and have balked at the Senate proposal, which would extend benefits based on 70% to 75% of lost wages, starting at $200 a week and over time increasing to $500 a week with state assistance. The benefits expired without a short-term extension in place.
3. A second stimulus check to encourage spending
What it is: Aand families, based on annual income, age, number of dependents and other factors. The authorized under the CARES Act have been sent to over 160 million Americans — as a check, as a prepaid credit card or via direct deposit. But there have been problems, and after three months .
How it could help you: The payment isn’t 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 will help the economy recover faster.
Why we think a second check will pass: The CARES Act authorized payments of up to $1,200 per eligible adult and so does the $1 trillion HEALS Act. The House of Representatives’ $3 trillion Heroes Act also called for $1,200 stimulus payments, but for more people. The White House supports another round of checks, which makes sending out payments a likely part of the final bill.
4. Funding to safely reopen schools
What it is: While the CARES Act did not address school reopenings, both HEALS and Heroes do. Under the Heroes Act, there would be $58 billion for grades K-12 and $42 billion for higher education. The HEALS Act called for $70 billion to go to K-12 that open for in-person classes, $29 billion for higher education, $1 billion to the Bureau of Indian Education, and $5 billion state discretion.
How it could help you: More money for schools could mean more resources for adapting schools and learning to the pandemic.
Why we think it will pass: Both sides seem to want funding, but whether it gets tied up in details around in-person learning or whatever else, remains to be seen.
5. Liability protection against coronavirus-related lawsuits
What it is: Under the HEALS Act, employers, schools and healthcare providers would be protected by a limit on lawsuits dealing with the exposure to the coronavirus, with the exception of gross negligence, for example.
How it could help you: If you’re in that category of employers, healthcare providers or schools, this could help keep you out of court.
Why it’s in the air: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said the protections are a must-have. Pelosi, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to think so.
6. Payroll Protection Program to encourage businesses to 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 PPP is intended to encourage businesses to keep employed workers 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.
Why we think it could get extended: The Republican proposal will target the hardest-hit small businesses, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine said during the rollout of the bill. That includes those with revenue losses of 50% or more over last year.
7. Employee retention tax credit could help pay workers
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 for — 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: The HEALS Act includes further tax relief for businesses that hire and rehire workers, and the Democratic-backed Heroes Act also builds on the tax credits that were part of the initial CARES Act. And there’s additional bipartisan support besides.
8. Return-to-work payment of as much as $450 each 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, but it’s not part of the proposal Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other Republican senators presented.
Until we know for sure what the final stimulus bill will bring, there are some resources to help you through the financial crisis. We look atand ; ; and ; how to ; and .
9. An eviction moratorium, but it’s uncertain
What it is: There have been two proposed parts, at one point or another. The first is to stop landlords from evicting tenants, which was part of the now expired CARES Act. The other is a plan to help renters pay rent and assist landlords with their mortgage and other expenses in light of reduced rent money coming in. The US faces a potential eviction and housing crisis that could cause up to 40 million people to lose their homes. That’s about 12% of the US population.
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 the costs rental property owners face because of rental payment shortfalls..
Where it stands now: Trump’sdoesn’t actually keep evictions from happening. There are currently no federal eviction protections, though some states may have some.
“The Secretary of Housing and Urban Development shall take action, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law, to promote the ability of renters and homeowners to avoid eviction or foreclosure resulting from financial hardships caused by COVID-19,” the executive order reads.
“It’s less of an executive order and more of an ‘executive suggestion,'” Schumer tweeted Aug. 10.
Eviction protection wasn’t part of the Senate proposal, but has been a topic Trump has pushed for inclusion. As with unemployment insurance, Congress had initially looked to extend this separately while it worked on the final bill.
What’s the story with Trump’s payroll tax cut?
What it is: Trump has for months pushed the idea of including temporary payroll tax cuts in the next stimulus package. The directive Trump signed includes deferring certain taxesfor people earning less than $100,000.
How it could help you: If you have a job, a payroll tax cut would let you keep more of your earnings from each paycheck for now. The plan would not help those who are unemployed and don’t receive a paycheck. The 32 million people who were claiming unemployment insurance as of July 18 wouldn’t benefit. Workers and employers would still need to pay those taxes the following year.
Will it stick? Trump signed a memorandum Aug. 8 to enact the payroll tax cut, but it isn’t clear if he has the legal right to do so. Typically, financial decisions like tax cuts are authorized by congressional vote, not a presidential order. We’ll have to wait and see if legal action is brought against the order. Neither theincludes a payroll tax cut.
Julie Snyder contributed to this story.