Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., released the HEALS Act (Health; Economic Assistance and Liability Protection; and Schools) last week, the Senate Republican leadership’s coronavirus relief proposal. The House Democrats introduced their package earlier. Both packages include another round of $1,200 stimulus checks, increased COVID-19 test funding, an extension of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), and enhanced unemployment benefits. The similarities between the bills end there, and both sides are still about $2 trillion apart. Adding to the tense atmosphere is the significant number of GOP members that oppose more stimulus altogether.
Significant points of debate include small business priorities such as PPP loans and liability protection. The House bill continues the PPP with existing funds through December 31, 2020, while the Senate package proposes $190 billion in additional funding to allow for a second round of loans to small businesses in need. The Senate bill also includes liability protections from COVID-related workplace lawsuits, the majority leader’s top priority. The House bill provides no such protections. Other areas of contention include extending enhanced unemployment benefits and direct funding to states.
Negotiations are ongoing, but both sides remain far apart. The final relief package will only make it to the president’s desk for signature if they can come to a compromise that both the House and Senate will pass. Click here for a summary of each phase of coronavirus relief, including a detailed overview of the Senate and House Phase 4 bills as introduced.