Senate Republicans on Monday released their counterproposal on another coronavirus stimulus package, a roughly $1 trillion package that includes another round of direct checks to millions of Americans, more help for small businesses and money to help reopen schools.
Almost immediately, it was criticized by conservative lawmakers as misguided and expensive and by Democrats as a ridiculously late effort that falls short of the nation’s needs to weather the economic damage of the COVID-19 pandemic that has infected nearly 4.3 million Americans and killed more than 147,000.
Dubbed the Health, Economic Assistance, Liability protection, and Schools Act, or HEALS Act, the legislation is expected to kick off serious negotiations with House Democrats who in May passed their own Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act, or HEROES Act, projected to cost $3 trillion.
The stimulus package – the fifth since the pandemic began in March – is likely the last economic rescue package before the November election.
“We have produced a tailored and targeted draft that will cut right to the heart of three distinct crises facing our country: getting kids back in school, getting workers back to work and winning the health care fight against the virus,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said on the Senate floor.
Among the GOP bill’s key provisions as laid out by McConnell:
- Another round of $1,200 checks for individuals ($2,400 for married couples), with more support for adult dependents.
- A “sequel” to the Paycheck Protection Program, the widely praised small business rescue program that has provided more than $500 billion to companies with fewer than 500 employees. The GOP proposal would target hard-hit firms with 300 or fewer workers a second opportunity to draw from the fund.
- A continued federal supplement to state unemployment insurance. The weekly amount is “eight times what Democrats put in place when they controlled the White House and Congress during the Great Recession,” McConnell said.
- $100 billion to help schools and universities reopen fully, a priority of President Donald Trump.
- $16 billion to expand state testing with an emphasis on schools, child care facilities and nursing homes.
- $26 billion for development of vaccines and therapeutic remedies to treat COVID-19.