Ayyyeee… What’s Goodie Everyone. So I got some tea and it involves a $908 billion dollar economic relief package. It is now being discussed by democrats and republicans. So what does this mean for you??? Well here is all the tea right here.
A group of about a half dozen centrist lawmakers unveiled a $908 billion plan Tuesday that has since gained the support of top congressional Democrats and several senior Senate Republicans, breathing new life into long stalled talks over critical economic relief.
Lawmakers have not yet released legislative text behind the plan, but there is a one page summary provided by the group titled the “COVID Emergency Relief Framework” that combines many of the central priorities of congressional leaders from each party. The framework would meet congressional Democrats top demands to provide hundreds of billions in aid to jobless Americans and hundreds of billions of dollars to hard hit states and cities that were affected by Covid-19.
It would also meet Republican’s chief demands to approve new small business funding and, a temporarily, protect businesses and other entities from coronavirus related lawsuits. The measure includes other priorities to help the nation through the coronavirus pandemic, such as funding for health officials to help with the distribution of the coronavirus vaccine, as well as aid for hospitals, the hungry, and the U.S. Postal Service.
The spike in coronavirus cases and looming winter have fueled fears about possible devastation for certain segments of the American economy. In particular, restaurants, hotels, airlines and bus companies, among other industries hit hard by the pandemic, have warned of mass layoffs and dire consequences in the coming months without federal assistance. As a result, the most expensive item in the senators bipartisan plan is $288 billion in assistance for U.S. businesses, with lawmakers insisting that this pot of funding be primarily geared toward assisting small firms. As with most of the bipartisan “framework,” the specifics of how that funding would be apportioned remains unclear at the moment.
The centerpiece of the business aid program is expected to be another round of funding for the Paycheck Protection Program, which has already doled out hundreds of billions in forgivable small business loans often with significant controversy to millions of American firms. This new funding would allow businesses that have already exhausted their PPP funding to apply for another round of payments. This time, firms applying for PPP funding will almost certainly be required to demonstrate substantial declines in revenue to qualify for assistance.
Part of this $288 billion would also likely be used for targeted help specifically for restaurants, which are expected to be slammed by the closure of outdoor dining in the coming winter months. It would also include another round of Economic Injury Disaster Loans, which offers smaller loan amounts than PPP.
The second most expensive funding item in the bipartisan framework consists of $180 billion for unemployment benefits to jobless Americans. Under the bipartisan plan, Americans on unemployment would receive $300 per week from the federal government on top of their existing state unemployment benefits, assuming those have not been exhausted. In March, Congress approved a federal unemployment benefit of $600 per week that expired at the end of July as negotiations between lawmakers collapsed. Trump unilaterally approved a $300 per week unemployment bonus in August, although most of that money in turn expired in October.
The plan is also expected in coming days to include an extension in Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, a program for the self employed and gig workers not eligible for traditional unemployment benefits, as well as an extension in base benefits. Both are expected to be extended through March.
The bipartisan plan proposes funneling $160 billion to state and local governments to help them through the next several months without further cuts to personnel or services. That provision has already sparked substantial controversy among congressional Republicans, who have for months denounced aid for these governments as “bailouts” for profligate Democratic lawmakers. Other Republican lawmakers are seeking to approve new guardrails on state and local money as a condition for their support of the package.
The business lobby and Senate Republicans have for months sought to give firms and other entities immunity from coronavirus related lawsuits in which they claim represents a frivolous drag on the economy. These demands have incensed Democrats, who were already furious at what they see as an overly permissive approach from Trump’s Department of Labor in policing employer handling of coronavirus dangers for their workers.
The one page summary released by the bipartisan working group includes only one unclear line about the liability shield: “Provide short term federal protection from coronavirus related lawsuits with the purpose of giving states time to develop their own response.”
Lawmakers have discussed reprieve from covid related lawsuits lasting between six months and a year. Senior Democrats have balked at that measure despite embracing the broader bill. A number of Republicans have made clear that no stimulus package will pass without including the measure.
The bill also includes more than a half dozen other pots of funding aimed at meeting other critical areas of need facing the country.
- $82 billion for schools and education funding;
- $45 billion for hard-hit transit agencies, including airlines, airports, buses and Amtrak;
- $26 billion for agriculture and nutrition assistance, which would aim to head off the enormous hunger crisis emerging across the country;
- $25 billion in housing and rental assistance to stave off a feared wave of evictions;
- $16 billion to help the government distribute the vaccine, probably a massive undertaking;
- $10 billion for the U.S. Postal Service;
- $10 billion for child care.
Here is what’s not in the bill: A number of top priorities for both parties are for now still absent the bipartisan agreement. The agreement is also silent on multiple critical deadlines facing Congress over emergency programs that are set to expire. For instance, the plan does not renew the federal moratorium on evictions that is set to expire at the end of the year. Experts fear the expiration of the moratorium could put 30 million renters at risk of eviction. A congressional aide said Thursday that the eviction moratorium is expected to be in the final agreement.
A second round of $1,200 stimulus checks although supported by congressional Democrats and the president is also not included in the bipartisan framework. Congressional Republicans are widely seen as resistant to spending more than $1 trillion on another stimulus package. Once state and local funding, small-business relief and aid to the unemployed is added up, lawmakers do not have enough money leftover to both include checks and keep the overall price tag below $1 trillion.
The plan also leaves out a suite of tax cuts that Republicans had been seeking as part of their earlier stimulus proposals, including Trump’s demand for a payroll tax cut for firms. Democrats push for hazard pay which would give bonuses to essential workers and health care professionals who have put their lives in danger during the pandemic was also excluded from the plan.