Republicans Release Stimulus Bill Proposal Titled HEALS Act; $1,200 Checks, Cuts To Unemployment Payments

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell released the Republican version of the bill providing a second round of stimulus, calling it the Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection, and Schools (HEALS) Act while laying out the vision for the bill, as Congress works to secure aid to those at home and strengthen the economy as coronavirus cases and unemployment rises. Parts of the proposed bill will look familiar to those that received aid in the March CARES Act. Others, will lead to significant negotiations with Democrats, as well as with other Republicans.

The bill details rolled out in eight parts, with Senate committee leaders reading out their separate portion of their bill.

The total cost of the proposed bill will run about $1 trillion, which is $2 trillion less than the stimulus bill, the HEROES Act, passed by the House of Representatives in May. It includes many protections that the country received in March, upon the initial passing of the CARES Act, including stimulus checks. But it also leaves out some protections that Democrats sought in the HEROES Act.

Some of the high points in or excluded from the bill, include:

  • Another $1,200 stimulus check to the same group of taxpayers that were meant to receive the stimulus checks after the passing of the CARES Act
  • Income limits for the full, $1,200 stimulus checks are $75,000 for individuals and $150,000 for families
  • It provides a $500 additional check for each dependent in a family, which is the same level as the CARES Act
  • It reduces the unemployment benefits, capping them to $200 a week from the $600 a week level that the unemployed received under the CARES Act. At the end of September, this benefit would switch to providing 70% of wages prior to losing one’s job.
  • It does not provide additional aide to states and municipalities that have lost millions to billions during the pandemic

The proposal sets the table for conversations between House and Senate leaders of both parties, in order to come to a complete bill that can pass Congress. Negotiations are expected to continue into August, leaving aid up in the air, as many protections passed in the CARES Act time out at the end of this week.

Here’s what’s in the proposal.

Stimulus Checks

What’s clear: stimulus checks will not require much debate. Despite much bluster from Republicans in the lead up to the proposal, where the range of stimulus checks went from none to those making less than $40,000, Senator Chuck Grassley, Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee confirmed that the bill would provide a $1,200 check per taxpayer and $500 for dependents. It’s reported that the income limits for the checks will match the CARES Act, providing the payments to anyone making $75,000 or less as an individual or $150,000 or less, when filing jointly. The checks would taper off in amount until you make $99,000 as an individual or $198,000 as a couple.

This will not require much debate between Democrats. The House of Representatives passed a version of stimulus in May, which called for the same measure. The only area of contention will be in the amount families receive for dependents. Republicans call for $500 while the House bill sought $1,200 per (a maximum of three) dependent.

Unemployment Benefits

While the conversations between the GOP and Democrats may be smooth when it comes to stimulus checks, that’s not the case when it comes to unemployment. As expected, the GOP has called to cut additional unemployment benefits to provide filers up to 70% of their original income. It’s believed this will provide $200 per week for two months, giving states the opportunity to set up their systems to provide the 70% rate of original income.

Arguing that the unemployment benefits at $600 would allow workers to get paid “more not to work than when they would get working,” Grassley warned that the higher benefits in the CARES Act would prevent people from going back to their job.

“What this country needs is workers,” he added.

In the CARES Act, the unemployment benefits were increased by $600 per week through July. That safety net will run out this Friday. There’s evidence that the US’s spending was significantly bolstered by this benefit. JPMorgan Chase JPM ’s research arm found that unemployment spending could drop by 29% without this aide.

The House sought to extend this benefit of $600 additional payments per week through the end of January 2021. Republicans have argued, however, that the benefit discourages employees from returning to work.

Expect significant debate over this issue, before a consensus is reached.

This story is breaking and will be updated with the latest information shortly.

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