MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) – With the parameters of the debate over a CARES Act sequel finally set, investigative reporter Brendan Kirby joined FOX10 News anchor Lenise Ligon on Tuesday to break down the details.
Here are the details of the Senate Republican plan and how it differs from the bill House Democrats passed earlier this year.
QUESTION: Monday, Senate Republicans unveiled their proposal for a follow-up to the Coronavirus, Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The big question: Are we getting another stimulus check?
BRENDAN: It’s starting to look like it. It was the provision from the CARES Act that impacted the most people, and it’s one of the most common questions people ask.
The Senate Republican plan is called the Heath, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection and Schools (HEALS) Act. It calls for direct payments of $1,200 per adult, same as the CARES Act. It also would have the same income caps, starting to phase out at adjusted gross incomes of $75,000 for singles and $150,000 for married couples. Like the CARES Act, families would receive a $500 tax credit for children. It also would include older teenagers and adult dependents, who were left out of the first round.
The House-passed Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act is even more generous, because children and adult dependents would get the full $1,200, with a household maximum of $6,000.
So that sets up the low and high ends of the debate. Both sides now agree on another round of direct payments. Presumably, that means Republicans and Democrats will negotiate some sort of compromise and then work out details like when the checks will go out and whether the Internal Revenue Service will use the same process.
QUESTION: Then there’s unemployment. The extra $600 a week in federal benefits expired on Saturday, which means people recertifying this week will get their last expanded benefit.
BRENDAN: The parties are further apart on this issue.
The HEALS Act would continue the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation benefit, but at a reduced $200 additional per week instead of $600. This would last through September, and then after that, someone who is unemployed because of the pandemic would get 70 percent of his wages replaced. The proposal also calls for $2 billion for states to upgrade their unemployment systems.
The proposal is a lot more generous that regular unemployment, which in Alabama, is capped at $285 per week. But Democrats want to go even further. The HEROES Act would extend the additional $600 all the way through January of next year.
QUESTION: Tell us how the plan would address help for businesses.
BRENDAN: The HEALS Act would extend the Paycheck Protection Program, providing $190 billion to businesses that took money in the first loan program.
Only companies with fewer than 300 employees that have experienced a 50 percent loss in gross revenue could participate. The second loan would be equal to 2.5 times total monthly payroll costs up to $2 million. If companies use at least 60 percent of the money on payroll, the loans would be forgiven.
Unlike the CARES Act, organizations like chambers of commerce also would be eligible.
The House-passed HEROES Act also extends the Paycheck Protection Program. It eliminates the current requirement that 75 percent of the money be used for payroll in order to become a grant. Businesses would have more flexibility to address other needs. There are also provisions allowing more businesses to apply and restrictions on debt collection. There not a lot of difference between the two parties on this. It’s hard to imagine this not making it into a final bill.
QUESTION: There are also proposals where the parties are far apart on. Tell us about some of those.
BRENDAN: That’s correct. Some Republican priorities are not in the Heroes Act in any form. Those are going to be the areas where it will be much harder to find common ground and could be areas where Republicans make concessions to win Democratic support elsewhere.
Let’s take a look at a big one: liability protection: Under the Republican plan, health care providers, schools and employers would get protection from coronavirus-related lawsuits, although gross negligence claims would still be allowed. Democrats included no such protection in the HEROES Act.
Some Democratic priorities also do not appear in the Republican proposal. These include an expansion of the Earned Income Tax credit for low-income earners. Childless adults temporarily could get a maximum credit of $1,487 – a 275 percent increase over current law.
The Democrats also want more than $1 trillion for aid to state and local governments. There’s nothing in the GOP proposal for that.