Talks on a second stimulus check are moving ahead in fits and starts. Here’s the latest status update.

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If Congress can pass another stimulus relief law this year, will the House and Senate do it through a series of focused bills targeting specific issues, or with a large comprehensive package that addresses a range of funding? Both approaches would help tackle the ongoing effects of the coronavirus pandemic on the economy and public health currently affecting hundreds of millions of people in the US. Over 214,000 people in the US have died from COVID-19, according to Johns Hopkins University.

President Donald Trump — who announced on Oct. 2 that he and First Lady Melania tested positive for the coronavirus — continues to urge negotiators to work together on a new stimulus bill, despite flip-flopping on stopping negotiations and going “big” on a $1.8 trillion package presented on Oct. 9. The bill supports $1,200 stimulus checks and a renewal of payroll assistance for the airlines and other industries. The current White House proposal is for a $1.8 trillion package, less than the $2.2 trillion bill put forward by Democrats.

After backlash from Republicans and Democrats alike, Trump’s camp is now urging Congress to divert funds from emergency coronavirus relief money into a standalone bailout bill — possibly for small businesses or the airline industry.

Dizzy yet? Confused? You’re not alone. We’ll help you get a handle on which top issues could be in a standalone bill or overarching stimulus package — one that would either squeak by before the Nov. 3 election or perhaps return to the drawing board after the election. This story updates often.

What the White House’s $1.8 trillion stimulus offer contains

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has for months met on and off with Treasury secretary and chief White House negotiator Steven Mnuchin on the size and approach of the next economic relief bill. 

Senate Republicans have cycled through several proposals for new stimulus legislation — from this summer’s $1 trillion HEALS Act to a $500 billion “skinny bill” that lacked stimulus checks — but neither proposal gained traction. For the current round of talks, Mnuchin is using a bipartisan proposal out of the House as a starting point. The approach has the support of others, including Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, who said “It has many good things for individuals and businesses.”

According to The Washington Post, Mnuchin’s current offer stands at $1.8 trillion and includes:

Another stimulus payment: Stimulus checks up to $1,200 for eligible adults and $1,000 for qualifying child dependents (the CARES Act set dependent payments at $500).

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Unemployment benefits: The proposal sets enhanced unemployment benefits at $400 a week (down from the $600 included in the CARES Act but up from the $300 that Trump authorized this summer through executive action).

State and local funding: A big sticking point, the proposal includes $300 billion for cities and states, up from $250 billion in an earlier proposal.

Pelosi’s deputy chief of staff, Drew Hamill, said Friday that the speaker is concerned about the lack of “a strategic plan to crush the virus” in the administration’s proposal.

White House spokeswoman Alyssa Farah said on Friday that the administration wants to keep the cost of the bill below $2 trillion. It’s also unclear if Senate Republicans would support any deal over $1 trillion.

What a standalone bill could contain

As a way to reach some of the goals a comprehensive bill could accomplish, White House leaders have at times pushed for smaller, targeted bills they say everyone could agree on. 

“We’re still willing to be engaged, but I’m not optimistic for a comprehensive deal,” White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said this week on Fox News. “I am optimistic that there’s about 10 things that we can do on a piecemeal basis.” Trump called out three areas where he’d support targeted legislation.

$1,200 stimulus checks: On Tuesday, Trump said he’d sign a bill authorizing another $1,200 check immediately. Another direct payment to qualified people is one of the areas that everyone — both Republicans and Democrats — appear to agree on. And with new jobless claims over 800,000, the need for additional assistance is pressing. 

Airline assistance: With the airline industry hit hard by the coronavirus-induced economic downturn and starting to furlough workers, negotiators have tagged airline assistance for standalone legislation. “Let me just be really clear,” Pelosi said Oct. 8. “I have been very open to having a standalone bill for the airlines.” The House earlier passed a $28.8 billion airline support bill that Pelosi suggested could be the starting point for legislation. 

Paycheck Protection Program: The payroll protection plan that was part of this spring’s CARES Act provided forgivable loans to small businesses as an incentive to keep employees on the payroll. Trump said he’d “sign now” a bill authorizing additional funding to protect small-business payrolls.

Support for the US Postal Service: This summer, the House passed a bill that would address concerns about the service and the upcoming election and provide $25 billion in additional funding. The Senate didn’t take up the bill.

$100 bills

Enhanced unemployment benefits are already ending in many states, leaving people waiting anxiously for a new relief package that includes more funding for the program.

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The Democrats’ comprehensive $2.2 trillion offer

Pelosi continues to point to the updated version of The Heroes Act (PDF) as the basis for a new bill. The House passed the  bill on Oct. 1 largely along party lines. The new Heroes Act includes:

Direct payments: The current Democratic proposal includes payments of up to $1,200 per individual and $500 for each dependent.

Payroll support for small businesses and airline workers: The Democratic plan would refund payroll protections and extend the program to airline workers. 

Unemployment benefits: The plan would reauthorize $600 federal unemployment payments, through January 2021.

State and local funding: The bill would provide assistance to state and local governments to pay essential workers, including first responders and health workers.

Housing assistance: The proposal would renew financial support for renters and homeowners to meet rental and mortgage payments.

What happens now

What happens next is up in the air. Politico reports that negotiators intend to work through the weekend and into next week on a deal. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell warns that with the election barely three weeks away, a deal is unlikely to happen before Nov. 3.

For more information, here’s what you need to know about coronavirus hardship loans and unemployment insurance, and what you can do if you’ve lost your job.



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