With Congress nearing its traditional August recess and the COVID-19 crisis showing no signs of receding, leaders in the House and Senate are engaged this week in serious negotiations over the next major legislation meant to provide continued economic help for the economy and support for schools, the health care industry, and state/local governments as they cope with the crisis. After passing several pieces of legislation in March and April (including the massive CARES Act ), it has been expected that Congress would need to do more with the only question being when another bill would come.

The House passed, on a party-line vote, another massive bill in May (the HEROES Act ) that called for $3 trillion in relief spending and would include another round of individual stimulus payments; an extension of the $600/week federal unemployment benefits through January 2021; extension of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP); student loan forgiveness; rental and mortgage assistance; hazard pay for essential workers; significant financial assistance to state and local governments and the healthcare industry; and many other provisions. The Senate did not take up the House legislation preferring instead to wait to see how the CARES Act and other legislation would impact the crisis.

With urgency now building for another major package of relief, the Senate Republicans yesterday began releasing their proposals for COVID-19 relief legislation collectively called the HEALS Act . The HEALS Act would call for $1 trillion in relief spending and also would include another round of individual stimulus payments; extension of federal unemployment benefits ($200/week and then 70 percent of a person’s former pay); extension and changes to the PPP; liability protection for businesses and other entities from COVID-19-related lawsuits; financial assistance for schools; a range of tax breaks and incentives; and many other provisions.

It is widely understood that the HEROES Act and the HEALS Act are only the starting points for the negotiations with much of the detail of an eventual compromise still up in the air. With the current unemployment benefits expiring this week and the August recess looming, there was some thought that a deal might come together this week. That is now very unlikely to happen and it could well take weeks of negotiations to sort things out. There clearly is common ground for agreement on several issues (individual stimulus, unemployment extension, PPP extension, aid for schools, certain tax credits/incentives, etc.), but getting the details hammered out will be difficult.

Thank you to Chris Beaumont, SVP Governmental Affairs for the Indiana Credit Union League for his permission to use this information to inform our members.