Late Monday, the Senate, in consultation with the White House, put forth the HEALS (Health, Economic Assistance, Liability protection, and Schools) Act. Some of the provisions of this $1 trillion dollar stimulus bill are:
- A second round of $1,200 payments to qualifying individuals whose wages are $75,000 or less per year.
- An extension of the unemployment benefits, limited to $200 per week, while giving the states until October to adjust their systems to accommodate benefits equaling 70% of prior wages along with additional Federal funding, capped at $500/week.
- Liability shields for businesses, schools and other organizations from lawsuits involving coronavirus infections, excluding acts of “gross negligence” or “intentional misconduct”.
- $70 Billion for aid to K-12 Schools, $29 Billion for Colleges and Universities and $5 billion in flexible spending.
- $16 billion to assist with distribution of a vaccine for the coronavirus and additional testing.
- Tax credits involving money spent on PPE and providing for social distancing in work spaces and expanding the employee retention tax credit for small businesses and restaurants that are keeping their employees working.
- An expanded tax break for businesses spending money on meals and entertainment for clients.
- $60 billion in additional aid for small businesses through the PPP. Qualifying businesses would have fewer than 300 employees and need to show revenue losses of 50% or more since the pandemic started.
- $100 billion in long-term, low-cost loans to seasonal businesses and businesses in low income areas showing 50% or more in decreased revenue.
- $1.75 billion for a new FBI building, which President Trump is insisting be included in the package.
- $20 billion in aid for agriculture including compensating livestock producers for losses from killing animals because of virus-related shutdowns and slowdowns at slaughterhouses.
One noticeable item omitted from the HEALS Act is the bipartisan provision to allow PPP loan expenses to be deducted despite any portion of the loan being forgiven. This provision is included in the House’s HEROES Act.
The HEALS Act will be debated with the House, which put forth the $3.5 trillion HEROES Act in May. The Senate has not responded to the HEROES Act and have referred to the bill as “dead on arrival” for months. The Senate, in conjunction with the White House, is not in favor of spending more than the $1 trillion proposed, citing the national debt and a recovering economy as reasons. The House disagrees, indicating that the economy and pandemic environment will be with us for many months to come.
Common ground provisions between the House and Senate include:
- A second round of payments to qualifying individuals and their dependents; however the details, including eligibility and amounts of dependent care credits, must still be ironed out.
- Extending unemployment benefits; however the Senate proposes cutting the $600 benefit to $200 until states can reprogram their systems to provide a 70% benefit of the workers’ previous wages. The House proposes to simply extend the $600 benefit until January 2021.
- Aid to states and local governments; however the dollar amounts proposed in each bill widely differ.
Significant differences in provisions that will likely generate the most lengthy discussions include:
- The HEROES Act would provide aid to the food stamp program and has a moratorium on evictions from rentals.
- The HEALS Act would provide protection from lawsuits involving coronavirus infections for businesses and schools; the House wants simply to insist the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to develop clear guidelines for schools and businesses to follow.
It is expected that talks will continue today with the most pressing issue being the expiring unemployment benefits for workers. Many members of Congress have suggested that a short interim bill addressing only the unemployment benefits could be enacted to keep money going to the unemployed; however House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is opposed to this, feeling that it would diminish the House’s leverage on other parts of the recovery package.
It is anticipated and hoped that Congress can come to an agreement before they break in early August or at least agree to an interim solution for the unemployed to keep money going to the 30 million people still out of work due mostly to the pandemic environment.
We will continue to keep you updated. Should you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to your tonneson + co representative.