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News & Press: Legislative Updates

Senate Majority Leader Releases “Skinny” Version of Coronavirus Relief

Thursday, August 27, 2020   (0 Comments)

Senate Republicans recently released a slimmed down version of their plan for coronavirus (COVID-19) relief. The revised Senate GOP legislation will focus on the "most urgent" needs identified by the Republican conference. The Senate would likely act on this legislation early in September.

The draft Republican bill would provide $300 in weekly unemployment insurance benefits through Dec. 27 and pump an estimated $158 billion more into the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program for forgivable loans that lapsed August 8, 2020.

It would also:

  • Extend liability protections to businesses, schools and health care professionals
  • Provide $105 billion for K-12 schools and colleges and universities; $29 billion for COVID-19 vaccine and drug development and distribution; and $16 billion for testing and contact tracing

The draft bill leaves out numerous other measures introduced last month, including another round of $1,200 payments to individuals, employer tax credits and roughly half of a $306 billion emergency appropriations package. 

The small-business funding package will enable a "second draw" on the Paycheck Protection Program for eligible firms that have suffered a 35 percent revenue loss over the same period a year ago. That's more generous than the measure unveiled last month, which required a 50 percent revenue decline.

Unemployment insurance and state and local government aid are two of the thorniest sticking points dividing the parties on a broader relief bill.

Democrats are pushing to renew the $600 weekly federal unemployment insurance add-on that expired last month. Senate Republicans initially offered $200 a week for the first couple of months, while the White House expressed openness to go as high as $400.

On August 8, 2020, President Donald Trump moved to establish a system by which states could apply for up to $44 billion in Federal Emergency Management Agency funds to provide laid-off workers with a $300 weekly supplement.

FEMA guidance this week said that the earliest most states would be able to distribute benefits is August 29, 2020, and that the money will cover only three weeks of initial benefits to ensure other states can get funding for which they are approved. And the money will last only as long as FEMA has enough to contend with potential natural disasters. The Senate GOP bill would enable state unemployment agencies to keep paying $300 a week through the end of the year.

The Senate GOP offering wouldn't provide any additional direct state and local government aid. A House relief package that passed in May would provide almost $1 trillion in state and local aid, several times the $150 billion figure that the White House has said it would support. Republicans also argue that direct education funds for states and localities would help address one of their biggest budgetary holes.