Coronavirus USA

Second Stimulus Checks: Republicans launch HEALS Act in the Senate

In a bid to provide further stimulus to the hard-hit American economy, Republicans propose new stimulus legislation in the Senate: the HEALS Act.

Second Stimulus Checks: Republicans launch HEALS Act in the Senate
MICHAEL REYNOLDS EFE

In March President Trump signed off on the CARES Act which provided a wide-ranging raft of measures to help the American economy, hard-hit by the Covid-19 pandemic. However much of the funding under that legislation is now exhausted, while the economic effects of the coronavirus crisis continue. For many individual Americans who received a $1,200 stimulus check the money is long spent, while unemployment remains exceedingly high across much of the US.

In response to this, the Democrats passed the HEROES Act in the House, calling for $3 trillion more in stimulus aid. However, the Republicans have refused to debate that bill.

Today, Monday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced the Republicans stimulus proposal, which is rolled out in the Senate in the afternoon session. The legislation will be called the HEALS Act and calls for $1 trillion of new funding to help fight the economic effects of Covid-19.

HEALS ACT: Republican Stimulus Plan

HEALS stands for Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection and Schools. The legislation is introduced in various components, introduced by various different senators including Marco Rubio and Mitt Romney.

McConnell said: "Just like in March with the CARES Act, Senate Republicans have authored another bold framework to help our nation. So now we need our Democratic colleagues to reprise their part as well. The Senate leader called on Democrates to “put aside partisan stonewalling...and rediscover the sense of urgency that got the CARES Act across the finish line.”

Second round of stimulus checks

In his statement, McConnell announced that there will be another round of $1,200 stimulus checks for individuals, with more support for families who care for vulnerable adult dependants. The CARES Act only allowed for $500 stimulus checks for dependents under the age of 18.

The same income criteria for the stimulus checks will be in place as was for the CARES Act ($1,200 per adult with adjusted gross income up to $75,000, tapering down to zero above $99,000. For married couples filing jointly the threshold is $150,000 tapering down to $198,000.)

Paycheck protection and unemployment insurance

McConnell also confirmed there will be a sequel to the Paycheck Protection Program.

On unemployment insurance, the Republican leader said: "Republicans want to continue a federal supplement to state unemployment insurance. In fact, we’ll propose a weekly dollar amount that is 8 times what Democrats put in place when they controlled the White House and Congress during the Great Recession. But we have to do it in a way that does not slow down re-opening."

What this actually means is a cut from the $600 per week unemployment payments to $200.

Liability protection

McConnell also outlined plans to bring in liability protection for lawsuits brought over the coronavirus pandemic. The Republican leader said this would cover everyone from doctors and nurses, to churches, charities, businesses and schools. The argument from Republicans is that the protection will allow companies to open for business without fear of being sued.

Deadline to pass HEALS Act

Mitch McConnell said he hopes that the Senate will be able to get the coronavirus relief bill to the House in the next two to three weeks. Time is tight if the bill is to be passed into law in the summer, with the Senate in recess from 8 August.

Timeline for passing the bill and what that would mean for the date of stimulus check payments.

The HEALS Act proposal passed the House 65-30 and will now be further debated in committee.

Democrats reject HEALS Act

Democrats rejected the HEALS Act out of hand, saying it is a "partisan bill" that will "never become  law".

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said the legislation did "not go far enough", while Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said: "What we have seen so far falls very short of the challenge that we face in order to defeat the virus, and in order to open our schools and open our economy. We have to act. And what they’re proposing falls far short.”