A display is seen as bipartisan members of the Senate and House of Representatives meet to announce a framework for new Covid-19 relief legislation at a press conference on Capitol Hill on December 1, 2020.
Kevin Lemarque | Reuters
As the debate continues over the next round of coronavirus relief by Congress, additional stimulus checks of $ 1,200 are on the cutting board.
Still, there are other proposals on the table that could provide some financial assistance to Americans struggling amid the pandemic.
On Tuesday, lawmakers unveiled a $ 908 billion bipartisan stimulus package for the coronavirus, the latest attempt at a deal between Republicans and Democrats. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Quickly rejected the proposal and came up with one of his own, which would keep the total cost closer to $ 500 billion.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Ca., And Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, DN.Y., encouraged McConnell Wednesday to use the bipartisan plan as a starting point for future talks. and they highlighted the importance of getting more help for Americans before the end of the year. The Democrats’ proposal would cost up to $ 2.2 trillion.
Discussions between the two sides are undoubtedly still ongoing, which means details could change before any plans are solidified. On Thursday, McConnell said he had seen “hopeful signs” that a deal could be reached before the end of the year.
“Compromise is within our grasp. We know where we agree. We can do this,” he said.
Extended unemployment insurance
Both proposals include extensions to unemployment insurance as millions of Americans are still out of work due to the pandemic. Two main programs, Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, will expire at the end of the year unless an agreement is reached.
“Twelve million people will lose the unemployment benefits that have kept them afloat the day after Christmas, unless Senate Republicans come to the table for the negotiation they have avoided since May,” said Lily Roberts, director of economic mobility from the Center for American Progress. , a group of left-wing experts. “Unemployment insurance extensions and paid leave are the most important support Congress can provide to families so they can get through the winter while we wait for a vaccine.”
The bipartisan proposal would extend unemployment insurance through next year, with funds allocated an additional $ 300 per week through March, according to a preliminary framework. That’s half of the $ 600 a week unemployed Americans received from the CARES Act, until it expired in July without an extension. It is unclear whether late payments would be included in the extension.
McConnell’s proposal would also expand unemployment insurance, but for a shorter time. Under his plan, the PUA, which provided benefits to independent contractors and workers, would be extended for one month until January 31 and then phased out over the next two months. During the elimination, no new applicants would be allowed into the program.
A similar extension and elimination would apply to PEUC, which gives unemployed Americans an additional 13 weeks of assistance.
Another round of the Paycheck Protection Program
Senator Angus King (I-Maine) holds up a graphic as bipartisan members of the Senate and House meet to announce a framework for new coronavirus relief legislation at a news conference on Capitol Hill on December 1, 2020.
Kevin Lemarque | Reuters
For small business owners or those who work for one, the next round of financing will likely bring more relief through the Paycheck Protection Program. The APP, initially established by the CARES Act, made loans to small businesses that were forgivable if they were used primarily for payroll costs.
The bipartisan plan would allocate another $ 288 billion in funding, state that first-round borrowers would not pay taxes on forgivable loans, and simplify the forgiveness application process for loans under $ 150,000.
McConnell’s plan would allocate about $ 333 billion to the program, with $ 257.7 billion earmarked for the second extraction of PPP. An additional $ 20 billion would lower the revenue loss threshold from 35% to 25%, $ 40 billion would help front-line businesses like restaurants and personal services, and another $ 15 billion would go to a grant program for live venues and closed theaters that have suffered significant revenue losses.
In the first round, the PPP approved more than 5 million loans, which amounted to more than $ 525 billion in financing. Still, the program had its shortcomings, and uncertainty remains about some important details, such as the ability of companies to deduct expenses covered by the loan.
Rental and food assistance
The CARES Act also established food and housing assistance programs that have helped Americans affected by the pandemic. The eviction and foreclosure moratoriums will expire at the end of the year if an extension is not implemented, which could lead to homelessness for millions of Americans.
Fortunately, emergency assistance through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which increased allocations for many, will continue through the end of the year.
Still, if no more funds are sent to SNAP, the increased appropriations will eventually run out, said Elaine Waxman, a senior researcher in the Center for Income and Benefits Policy at the Urban Institute. In September, nearly 1 in 5 adults and their households experienced food insecurity, according to research by the Urban Institute.
The boost is important for both families and the economy, he said. “By giving them more, we hope they will either spend more or try to withhold food expenses instead of cutting them to pay rent or utilities,” Waxman said.
The bipartisan plan would allocate $ 25 billion for rental housing assistance and $ 26 billion for nutrition and agriculture. McConnell’s plan does not mention more housing or food assistance, though it allocates $ 20 billion for agricultural assistance and $ 500 million for fishermen.
Childcare, education and more
Both plans also include more support for child care and education. The bipartisan plan would allocate $ 82 billion to education, $ 4 billion to student loans and $ 10 billion to childcare. There are few additional details on these elements presented in a preliminary framework.
McConnell’s plan also includes some support for child care and education: It would provide emergency funding to some organizations that grant scholarships, expand tax credits for those organizations, expand the rules for spending money on 529 accounts, and provide short-term assistance. deadline for child care providers to remain open.
McConnell’s plan would also give some taxpayers a greater break: It would increase a deduction above the line that would allow taxpayers to cancel charitable donations to $ 600 or $ 1,200 for those who file a joint return of the $ 300 established in the CARES Act for those who claim the standard. deduction.
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