Republicans senators finally unveiled on Monday their proposal for the next round of federal aid—the Heath, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection and Schools (HEALS) Act—but the proposed bill now needs to be debated by both parties, Here are the issues in the package that Democrats will likely oppose.
The enhanced unemployment benefit
The HEALS Act eliminates the extra $600 per week in federal unemployment benefits and replaces it with a program that would involve reducing the checks to $200 per week until states can make the shift to an amount based on 70% of previous wages. After the shift, the payment would be capped at $500 or 70%, whichever is lower.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said keeping the $600 benefit will be her starting point in negotiations with the GOP, according to the Washington Post. For Democrats, unemployment benefits are essential and they are concerned that overwhelmed state unemployment offices will not be able to switch over to the new plan.
Funds for state and local governments
The Republican bill doesn’t include any new federal relief funds for state and local governments. For Democrats, who proposed spending more than $1 trillion in additional state aid as part of the Heroes Act, this is a major priority.
The HEALs Act, instead, offers more flexibility in spending the $150 billion already assigned to states and municipalities by the CARES Act in March.
The Republican proposal also includes a five-year liability shield to protect businesses, healthcare providers and schools from lawsuits related to the coronavirus brought by workers and employees.
Democrats have said that worker safety should be a priority in any spending, not corporate America.
The HEALS Act includes several elements Democrats generally support, including a second round of stimulus checks and more aid for small businesses through the Paycheck Protection Program.
Other matters such as federal eviction moratoriums, student loan payments suspensions, and eligibility for immigrants with no legal status and their American spouses and children to receive the stimulus check are not contemplated in the Republican proposal.
When many fundamental benefits of the CARES Act have ended or are close to doing so, and when there are only a few days before Congress breaks for its August recess, lawmakers are on a time crunch to come to a compromise on what the next phase of federal relief should look like.