Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives today unveiled a $3 trillion-plus coronavirus relief package and are planning to vote on the measure later this week.
They are moving forward without GOP support since bipartisan talks have stalled. The legislation is expected to be dead on arrival for the GOP-led Senate. The plan, dubbed the Heroes Act, encompasses the Democrats’ legislative wish list including nearly $1 trillion to state, local, and tribal governments and another round of direct cash payments to Americans. It extends unemployment benefits to January, adds hazard pay for front line workers, and expands testing efforts.
Many Senate Republicans have criticized the push for more state aid, arguing any new money needed to be tied to the pandemic and not help address budget issues that pre-dated the crisis. Others have indicated that another round of emergency funding is not yet needed. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell shot down the the Democrats’ plan today, calling it “a big laundry list of pet priorities,” according to the Washington Post.
Senate Republicans are instead preparing a separate measure to protect businesses and other entities from coronavirus-related litigation, saying such a measure is vital for a successful reopening of the U.S. economy.
A provision in the House proposal is titled “additional recovery rebates” and calls for sending another round of payments of up to $1,200 to individuals and $2,400 to married couples who file taxes jointly.
Under the CARES Act, only people with a Social Security number were able to get payments. The Heroes Act allows taxpayers to qualify for a payment if they have a taxpayer identification number (TIN). It also proposes retroactively changing the rules in the CARES Act to allow filers with TINs to qualify and receive payments.
Democrats also want to extend emergency family and medical leave until the end of 2021. The official scorekeepers at the Congressional Budget Office estimate that the earlier version of the leave provisions, which passed in March and extend through the end of this year, would themselves cost $105 billion. The latest proposal would more than double the length of those benefits.
The Democrats’ plan aims to ease some of the pain for the meat and dairy industries. It would send emergency aid directly to livestock and poultry producers who have been forced to euthanize livestock due to disruptions related to COVID-19.
It would also create a federal dairy donation program to prevent dairy producers from needing to dump their milk as millions of families go hungry.
The bill follows the $3 trillion Congress has already spent on four bills in response to the crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic, which has ground the world’s biggest economy to a halt.
The White House says it wants to evaluate the economic impact of reopening before passing another large stimulus package.