Is there going to be a fourth COVID bill?
Why is it taking so long?
These are the questions I am getting from business owners and individuals who are hoping for additional action by Congress to combat the pandemic.
It’s been a couple of weeks since COVID #3.5 bill passed Congress, so here’s a helpful reminder about the legislation that has been passed to date
- COVID #1 is R. 6074, the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act signed into law by President Donald Trump signed on March 6, 2020. The bill provides a total of $8.3 billion for testing, research, and aid to state and local governments.
- COVID #2 is H.R. 6021, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act signed into law on March 18. This legislation included provisions on free testing, paid leave, unemployment, and food assistance.
- COVID #3 is H.R. 748, The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, the ‘‘CARES Act’’, signed into law by President Trump on March 27.
- COVID #3.5 is H.R. 266, The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and Health Care Enhancement Act, replenishing funds for the PPP, additional funding for hospitals as well as testing capacity.
- COVID #4 is finally reaching a vote in the House. The bill is called The Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act, the “HEROES Act”.
Speaker Pelosi’s Remarks on the introduction of the HEROES Act
Manager’s Amendment making changes to PPP
Provisions of the HEROES Act include:
- $1 trillion in aid for State and Local Governments
- $1,200 cash payments to individuals; $1,200 for dependent children, up to $6,000 a household.
- Extend a $600 weekly increase to unemployment insurance into January.
- $200 billion for “hazard pay” fund for essential workers
- $75 billion for virus testing and contract tracing
- Expand Employer Retention Tax Credit
- Suspend the cap on State and Local tax (SALT) deductions for two years, repealing the cap included in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017
- $16 billion to public transportation
- $100 billion for schools
The House passed the HEROES Act today by a vote of 208-199.
Rep. Peter King of New York was the only Republican who voted yes. In a surprising move, the following Democrats voted No:
Cindy Axne (IA)
Joe Cunningham (SC)
Sharice Davids (KS)
Abby Finkenauer (IA)
Jared Golden (ME)
Kendra Horn (OK)
Pramila Jayapal (WA)
Conor Lamb (PA)
Elaine Luria (VA)
Ben McAdams (UT)
Kurt Schrader (OR)
Abigail Spanberger (VA)
Xochitl Torres Small (NM)
Susan Wild (PA)
House Approves Proxy Voting Plan
The House also passed the much-discussed rule change, H. Res. 695, allowing Members to vote by proxy and conduct Committee hearings remotely. Proxy voting will allow absent members to designate a Member present on the House floor to vote on their behalf. The change is only effective for 45 days. Again, the rule change is intended to allow the House to conduct its business remotely while the pandemic persists. Republicans oppose the rule change and tried unsuccessfully to limit the scope of the rule change.
Senate Republican Response to the HEROES Act
Leader McConnell has said the Senate will not consider the HEROES Act. Senate Republicans have signaled a “wait-and-see” approach before committing to passing a fourth COVID related package.
Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said the chamber would not consider another COVID related package until late June, though that has not stopped Republicans from floating ideas they would like included in the next COVID relief package.
As reported in a previous post, Senate Republicans will insist on including liability protection in the next COVID bill to shield business and employers from lawsuits arising from COVID-19.
Senate Republicans have also expressed concerns about extending unemployment benefits. Republicans complain people receiving the extra $600 benefit included in the CARES Act are being paid more to stay at home versus going back to work. Republicans want to look at different incentives to encourage individuals to return to work.
President Trump and Administration officials are also taking a “wait-and-see” approach acknowledging their willingness to work with Congress if a fourth bill is needed.