Next stimulus bill makes progress in US Congress

Washington DC: Senate Republicans were expected to introduce their long-awaited stimulus package Thursday. Some details are available and  Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said Thursday morning that the White House and Senate Republicans have reached a tentative deal on legislation they will table as a starting point in talks with Democrats.

How much is the second stimulus check? According to the Associated Press, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wants second stimulus checks to Americans included in this stimulus package, but there is no clarity on the amount of the check or the upper income limit for  receiving it. Previously, McConnell suggested that those who earn up to $40,000 a year will be the beneficiaries.

Senate Republicans are leaning toward giving only $100 or $200 per week for unemployment benefits, rather than the $600 a week that Congress authorized under the Cares Act. But Mnuchin told CNBC Thursday that enhanced unemployment insurance will eb extended “based on approximately 70% wage replacement.”

The Treasury secretary also said a payroll tax holiday, which President Donald Trump has repeatedly pushed for but frowned upon by Senate Republicans, “won’t be in the base bill.”

Here are other provisions of the Republican plan, according to Mnuchin, as reported by CNBC:

  • $105 billion to help schools reopen, with funds partly dependent on schools reopening
  • A targeted additional round of the Paycheck Protection Program, with “second checks” for certain companies whose revenues are down more than 50%
  • $16 billion in new funding for coronavirus testing
  • Tax credits to encourage companies to hire workers
  • More flexibility for state and local governments in how they spend federal relief, but no new aid.

Giving reaction from the Democratic side, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said not approving additional aid for states and municipalities jeopardizes jobs and essential services in areas where governments have lost significant revenue and incurred huge expenses because of the pandemic. Democrats included nearly $1 trillion for state and local governments in the $3 trillion rescue package the House approved in May. Republicans did not take it up in the Senate.

The GOP will need Democrats to sign off on any plan, as they control the House and have the ability to block the Republican proposal in the Senate.

Republicans want the package to cost roughly $1 trillion. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi  has called that level of spending insufficient to address the health and economic crisis created by the pandemic.

Congress appears unlikely to meet a deadline to extend the $600 per week enhanced unemployment benefit passed in March, which expires at the end of the month. The weekly sum has helped to buoy tens of millions of jobless Americans while many businesses are closed to slow the outbreak’s spread.

The scramble to pass more relief legislation comes as U.S. Covid-19 cases approach 4 million and deaths from the disease top 143,000, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Its unabated spread has forced many states to either pause or roll back their economic reopening plans.

Mnuchin noted that the administration would consider an additional relief package if the spending in the developing plan does not go far enough to combat the crisis.

Images courtesy of WHSV-TV and Flickr

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