Will my unemployment be renewed?
What happens when the Paycheck Protection Program money runs out?
Why isn’t Congress doing anything?
Congress has gone home without reaching a deal with President Trump on a bill to combat the continuing fallout from the pandemic.
I try to stay away from over exaggeration in my blog posts, but the questions above are text messages I receive from concerned friends and relatives.
Americans are dying every day from the coronavirus.
30 million Americans have lost their jobs.
People are being evicted from their homes because the federal moratorium has expired. They are losing their homes because they lost their jobs and can’t pay. ALL through no fault of their own.
Unemployment payments from the Federal Government ended on July 31.
I can go on and on, but you get my point. It is infuriating that people are suffering and our government is doing nothing to help.
Now, I know Congress has passed multiple bills concerning the pandemic. I’ve reported on each bill in this blog.
And the fiscal conservative Blue Dog side of me cringes at the amount of debt and deficits in this country.
Nevertheless, people are hurting and need help.
Let’s be clear about the facts here:
The House of Representatives, led by Democrats, passed a fourth COVID bill called the HEROES Act back in May.
The Senate, led by Republicans, said they were going to offer a bill and didn’t.
June went by with nothing. No bill nor offer to start negotiations from the Senate.
The Senate said they would introduce their bill by July 20. July 20 came and went.
Senate Republicans finally introduced a bill on July 27, FOUR days before people’s benefits and protections ended on July 31.
And even then, Senate Republicans couldn’t agree on a bill, so they offered numerous piecemeal bills versus one comprehensive bill.
Twenty Republican Senators do not want a bill at all. Period. Nothing. They vowed to vote no regardless of what is in the final deal.
They basically sidelined Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, leaving negotiations to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows – who I’ll call the Big Four.
Let me also be clear – I am friends with Democrats, Republicans, and Trump Administration officials. I am not pointing fingers at one side. There is plenty of blame to go around on this one.
The Big Four have negotiated for the past three weeks with no results. The Democratic supported HEROES Act provided $3.5 trillion of relief. The HEALS Act, the collection of bills offered by Senate Republicans, total approximately $1 trillion.
Reportedly, the Big Four has compromised on unemployment benefits: Democrats want an extra $600 weekly included in the CARES Act. The White House offered $200. The compromise is $400.
Both sides agree to continue to provide direct payments to Americans. The amounts range from as much as $1,200 per adult and an additional amount per child or other dependent in the Democrats bill to $500 per dependent, the same amount as the CARES Act.
Pelosi and Schumer offered to meet in the middle at $2 trillion – Democrats will come down a trillion if Mnuchin and Meadows agree to come up a trillion. Mnuchin and Meadows said no.
The impasse also continues over:
State and Local Aid
- Democrats support $915 billion in aid to state and local governments.
- Senate Republicans offered no new funds for state and local governments.
- White House supposedly agree to provide $150 billion.
- Republicans insist on liability protection from lawsuits related to COVID infections for schools, businesses, and other Could only be found liable if they didn’t make reasonable efforts to follow public-health guidelines and committed gross negligence or intentional misconduct.
- Democrats oppose liability protections shielding employers from being sued for COVID infections.
- Democrats support jobless benefits provided under the CARES Act through Jan. 31, 2021
Benefits could continue through March 2021 for individuals who haven’t exhausted them by then.
- Republicans suggest extending and reducing jobless benefits to additional $200 per week, instead of $600, between July 31 and Oct. 5. After that, until Dec. 31, payment would be based on 70% of lost wages, if states can calculate.
Testing & Tracing
- Democrats support $100 billion for Provider Relief Fund, $75 billion for testing and tracing initiative.
- Republicans support $25 billion for Provider Relief fund, $26 billion for vaccines, $16 billion for testing.
Aid to Small Businesses/Paycheck Protection Program
- Both sides agree to extend Paycheck Protection Program through Dec. 31, with some with some differences:
- Democrats want to some remaining funds for smaller borrowers and community lenders as well as expand program eligibility to include local news outlets, nonprofits of any type or size. Permit spending on personal protective equipment for employees
- Republicans want to increase total lending authority to $749 billion and offer second loans to businesses with 300 or fewer workers and 50% revenue drop. Set aside second-round funds for smaller borrowers and community lenders while also expanding the program to include some 501(c)(6) groups and tourism bureaus.
- Bar publicly traded companies, lobbying and financial firms, Chinese-owned entities
- Democrats support funds to help eligible households pay for rent and prevent mortgage defaults and to assist people experiencing homelessness including $100 billion to establish an Emergency Rental Assistance program, $75 billion for Homeowner Assistance Fund, and $11.5 billion for homelessness assistance through Emergency Solutions Grants program.
- Democrats want to extend moratoriums on mortgage payments, foreclosures, and evictions: Additional six-month ban on foreclosures, 12-month ban on evictions, and automatic mortgage forbearance for borrowers with loans that are 60 days delinquent.
- Republican bills did not address this relief.
Payroll Tax Credits
- Democrats want to create a 50% payroll tax credit for as much as $50,000 per quarter for an employer’s qualifying fixed costs. Expenses could include mortgage, rent, or utilities. Establish a 90% income tax credit for certain self-employed workers whose income declined significantly.
- Republican bills establish a 50% payroll tax credit for an employer’s costs related to preventing the spread of the virus. The credit could be used for testing, PPE, modifications to workspaces.
Funding for the Postal Service also remains a sticking point.
In the wake of these disagreements, President Trump issues four Presidential Directives:
Despite news reports that the President signed four Executive Orders, he actually signed three Presidential Memoranda and one Executive Order. (Sorry for getting technical here.)
There are similarities between Executive Orders and Presidential Memorandums as well as key differences.
Negotiations, or lack thereof, are likely to stretch into September when the House and Senate return to Washington.
Regardless of whether you are a Republican, Democrat, or Independent, I urge you to remember what is occurring now when you vote in November.