Bigger checks? Relief for states? What could be in the next coronavirus bill

Bigger checks? Relief for states? What could be in the next coronavirus bill

WASHINGTON – The White House and congressional leaders are nearing a deal to pump an additional $300 billion into a new program to keep small businesses from shuttering and their employees from facing unemployment as the coronavirus pandemic derails the economy.

But even before that deal is completed, talk already has turned to larger economic recovery package that could send more cash payments flowing into the pocketbooks of Americans struggling financially because of the coronavirus crisis.

Americans ages 16 and older would be eligible for cash payments of $2,000 per month for at least six months under one proposal under consideration as lawmakers piece together the details of the next economic recovery package. Financial relief for state and local communities could be part of that package, along with assistance to rural hospitals, hazardous pay for health care workers and infrastructure spending.

Many of the proposals won’t make it into the final package, which could be weeks away. Congressional leaders and the White House agree on the need for another economic recovery bill after the $2.2 trillion package President Donald Trump signed into law last month. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said the cost of the next coronavirus package could easily surpass $1 trillion.

Here’s a look at some of the proposals that lawmakers are mulling over as they piece together the next economic recovery package:

The checks are arriving:Treasury says first coronavirus checks have gone out, and many will get payments by April 15

Americans could see direct payments of $2,000 a month for the next six months under one proposal before Congress.

Cash payments, paycheck protections

Millions of Americans have received checks of up to $1,200 authorized under the coronavirus recovery package Trump signed into law in March. The IRS is still delivering those checks to millions of others.

Lawmakers fear that one check may not be enough to help Americans get back on their feet, so they are looking for ways to continue the direct payments during the pandemic.

One proposal, by Reps. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., and Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, calls for every American age 16 and older making less than $130,000 annually to receive at least $2,000 per month for at least six months. Married couples earning less than $260,000 would receive at least $4,000 per month. The payments would continue until employment returns to pre-coronavirus levels.

“A one-time $1,200 check isn’t going to cut it,” Khanna said. “Americans need sustained cash infusions for the duration of this crisis in order to come out on the other side alive, healthy and ready to get back to work.”

College students and adults with disabilities who are claimed as a dependent by someone else were not eligible for a check under the recovery bill. They would be eligible under the latest proposal.

Another proposal by Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., calls for the federal government to cover 80% of wages for workers at any U.S. business, up to the national median wage, until the coronavirus crisis is over. Businesses would be eligible for a bonus if they rehire workers laid off over the past month.

Under yet another proposal, all employers whose monthly revenue has dropped at least 20% would be eligible for federal grants to cover a portion of payroll and benefits for at least six months. The senators behind the “paycheck security” proposal are Mark Warner, D-Va.; Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.; Doug Jones, D-Ala.; and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.

Questions:My check was sent to an account I don't recognize. Where's my check? Your coronavirus money questions answered

Financial relief for states

States and local governments hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic have pleaded for federal assistance to help them provide essential services.

A bill filed by Sens. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., and Bill Cassidy, R-La., from two of the hardest-hit states would set up a $500 billion fund to help states and local governments respond to the health and economic crisis while maintaining essential services.

The money would be divided into three tranches and distributed based upon population, the number of coronavirus cases and revenue losses.

Small-business relief:Congressional leaders near deal on coronavirus bill to replenish small-business program

Rural hospitals

Rural hospitals would be eligible for financial relief during the coronavirus crisis under a proposal by Sens. Tina Smith, D-Minn., and John Barrasso, R-Wyo. Their proposal would give rural hospitals access to the Paycheck Protection Program, which was created under the coronavirus rescue package and is targeted toward small businesses.

The program provides forgivable loans to employers who maintain their payroll during the coronavirus pandemic.

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Hazard pay

Health care workers battling the coronavirus might get “hazard pay” in the next package.

Trump has embraced the idea, suggesting the money could come in the form of bonuses.

Senate Democrats push for similar bonuses.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and other Democrats unveiled a plan to increase pay for essential workers, including those in the health care field, in sanitation and at grocery stores. The fund would increase pay up to $25,000, or $13 an hour, from the start of the crisis to the end of the year.

Coronavirus testing

Senate Democrats are pushing to ramp up coronavirus testing, which has been a source of contention between the Trump administration and governors.

Trump claimed last month that America's coronavirus testing was better "than any country in the world” and more recently argued that governors have enough testing to move toward reopening their states. Some governors, including Democrat Ralph Northam of Virginia and Republican Larry Hogan of Maryland, said the lack of testing has been a serious problem throughout the pandemic.

Senate Democrats call on Congress to approve $30 billion to rapidly expand coronavirus testing in the USA. Some of the money would be used for the production of more test kits and supplies and the development of new tests.

“Public health experts have made clear we will need to do hundreds of millions of tests if we want to reduce social distancing and safely get people back to work, back to school and back to some semblance of normal,” said Washington Sen. Patty Murray, the top Democrat on the Senate health committee. “For that to happen, we need testing to be fast, free and everywhere.”

Tax questions: Here’s how your coronavirus stimulus check affects your taxes

Infrastructure spending

Republicans and Democrats have repeatedly cited the need to repair the nation’s aging infrastructure as an area where they could find common ground since Pelosi and Democrats reclaimed the majority in the House more than a year ago.

Trump called last month for a $2 trillion bill to fix the nation's roads, bridges and tunnels and suggested it should be included in the next coronavirus package. Pelosi argued for making infrastructure the centerpiece of the next relief bill but switched course. It's unclear whether infrastructure funding will be included in the final package. Some Republican senators suggested they are lukewarm on that idea.

Contributing: Christal Hayes


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