House Democrats on May 12 unveiled a 1,815-page, $3 trillion "CARES 2" phase four economic relief package. However, Senate Republicans have criticized the measure as a "partisan wish list," saying that it will be DOA in the upper chamber.
The Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act (HR 6800) passed the House recently. However, the measure is largely considered on Capitol Hill as a platform to convey Democratic priorities as well as an opening bid to kick-start more official bipartisan, bicameral phase four discussions.
"Families are feeling the pain of a terrible one-two punch – a national public health emergency coupled with a historic economic downturn," House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., said in a May 12 press release. “"The gravity of our new reality demands substantial solutions, and that’s what Ways and Means Democrats offer in this latest response package."
However, Republican lawmakers are calling the bill as currently drafted a nonstarter. Notably, David Popp, communications director for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), said on May 12 that "it's never becoming law."
According to a House Democratic summary, HR 6800 provisions are outlined as follows:
- State and local aid: Nearly $916 billion in direct aid would be provided to make up for lost revenues suffered by states and local governments from the economic shutdown.
- Food assistance: Close to $10 billion would be used to cover increased participation in the food stamps program and to expand benefit levels by 15 percent.
- Housing: $75 billion to help homeowners unable to make mortgage payments or pay property taxes and utilities. And $100 billion in rental assistance for low-income tenants.
- Broadband: About $5.5 billion would go to emergency home internet connections and the creation of Wi-Fi hot spots for broadband service.
- Postal Service: $25 billion would be available to make up for lost Postal Service revenue from the pandemic.
- Education: Over $100 billion would be used for education, mostly for a State Fiscal Stabilization Fund to help states deal with the strain from shuttered schools.
- Public health fund: $100 billion for hospitals and other health care providers for pandemic-related costs, and $75 billion for virus testing.
- Medicaid: States would get a boost in federal Medicaid funding, with the federal matching share increased by 14 percentage points.
- Health insurance: Workers who are laid off or furloughed could maintain their employer’s health coverage through the COBRA program with full premium subsidies for about nine months.
- Unemployment insurance: An expanded benefit of $600 per week, set to expire in August, would be extended through Jan. 31, 2021.
- Hazard pay: A $200 billion "Heroes Fund" would give grants to employers to provide premium pay for "essential" workers.
- Rebate checks: Taxpayers would receive another round of direct payments of up to $1,200 per adult and $1,200 per dependent for up to three dependents. The credit begins phasing out after $75,000 of adjusted gross income, as in the previous payment round.
- Tax relief: The TCJA’s $10,000 limit on deductions for state and local taxes would be lifted for the 2020 and 2021 tax years. And an employee retention tax credit would be made more generous by covering the reimbursement costs of 80 percent of wages instead of 50 percent.
- Election security: $3.6 billion in state grants to prepare for elections during the pandemic.
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