- Congress is deadlocked on another stimulus package with fierce disagreements on the amount of federal spending needed.
- Many economists have said additional action is needed to keep jobless people afloat since unemployment remains in the double digits.
- Four plans under consideration are additional stimulus checks, extra unemployment payments, hazard pay, and hiring bonuses.
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Congress is deadlocked on another stimulus package with Republicans and top congressional Democrats fiercely disagreeing on the amount of spending that’s needed.
So far, Congress and President Donald Trump have approved over $US3 trillion in emergency spending to confront the coronavirus pandemic and manage its economic fallout. The biggest chunk of that came in March from the Cares Act, a $US2 trillion relief package designed to pump cash into every part of the American economy.
For individuals, it had two pillars – a wave of one-time stimulus checks of up to $US1,200, and a $US600 federal boost to weekly unemployment payouts – to help shore up their finances during an economic collapse. But those stimulus payments are largely spent and the government unemployment payout expired last month.
Now, Congress is debating measures that could provide financial relief and put extra cash in people’s bank accounts, including additional stimulus checks for Americans. Here are the details.
Lawmakers are weighing another round of stimulus checks.
In their proposed stimulus packages, Republicans and Democrats both agreed on a second round of direct payments with similar income thresholds from the first one.
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The Republican proposal also extended eligibility to include dependents regardless of age. They qualify for $US500, expanding the range of people that qualify for the cash compared to the initial wave of stimulus checks that left out many adult dependents and college students.
Under the Cares Act, individuals earning under $US75,000 a year ($US150,000 for couples) got checks of $US1,200, plus an extra $US500 for dependent children. Payments phased out at $US99,000 for single filers and $US198,000 for couples.
By the beginning of June, over 159 million Americans had received direct payments, per the IRS.
An extension of boosted unemployment payments is also under consideration.
Democrats are seeking to extend the $US600 federal boost to weekly unemployment benefits through January. It’s held firm on that position throughout stimulus negotiations.
Republicans oppose reviving the benefits at that amount, arguing it disincentivizes work. But that claim has been challenged by several studies.
Senate Republicans initially proposed a $US200 bonus that would transition to a 70% wage replacement. The White House then proposed a $US400 benefit until December; Democrats rejected it as insufficient.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that five out of every six recipients would get more money from the government than from their previous employer if the supplement were extended through the end of the year.
A group of top bipartisan economists called on Congress this summer to implement a federal boost of up to $US400 per week past July, tied to the economic health of individual states.
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Lawmakers are proposing hazard pay to give essential workers a financial boost.
In the HEROES Act passed in May, House Democrats included $US200 billion in hazard pay for essential workers such as grocery store employees. That measure would supplement an extra $US13 an hour on top of regular wages for those workers.
Senate Democrats also released a proposal – known as the “Heroes Fund” – to provide up to $US25,000 per person for a broad range of essential workers, including delivery drivers.
Some congressional Republicans moved in that direction too. GOP Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah also unveiled a plan to provide additional money for essential workers. It would ramp up pay for qualifying workers earning less than $US50,000 a year by $US12 an hour for three months.
The $US1 trillion Republican stimulus proposal did not contain a provision for hazard pay.
Some Republicans are pushing for a “back to work” bonus of up to $US1,200.
Several Republicans have rolled out proposals for a hiring bonus, arguing that it would be effective in getting people off unemployment rolls and back to work.
Rep. Kevin Brady introduced a plan for a $US1,200 bonus, which is equivalent to a jobless person collecting two weeks of expanded unemployment benefits.
Another bill from Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio would put the bonus at $US450 a week for up to six weeks.
“The $US600 was necessary, in my view, to get us started in this, but now we have a situation where the economy is starting to reopen, people are looking for workers,” Portman said at a Senate Finance Committee hearing earlier this month.
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