By Scott Norcross & Paige Rabatin
There’s no need for suspense; a new federal stimulus package will not be passed before the November 3rd election. That became clear once the announcement was made that the Senate will be recessed until November 9th. However, the consensus seems to be that a second round is soon coming, but the exact timing remains a mystery.
In early October, a $1.8 trillion economic relief package started to gain momentum. Viewed as something of a middle-ground between the Democratic HEROES Act and Republican HEALS Act, here are the key takeaways from the most recent proposal:
- A second stimulus payment: Payments of up to $1,200 would go to eligible adults, and $1,000 for qualifying child dependents (the CARES Act set dependent payments at $500).
- Unemployment benefits: To help those suddenly unemployed, the CARES Act provided an additional weekly payment of $600 on top of unemployment benefits provided by states. These extra funds expired at the end of July. Through an Executive Order, President Trump restarted the bonus in August, but cut the relief back to $300 for an additional six weeks. This has since been exhausted and for those who remain unemployed only a new stimulus package can provide new funds. The newest proposal originally set enhanced unemployment benefits at $400 a week. That’s lower than the $600 included in the CARES Act, but up from the $300 previously seen. The final figure remains a sticking point in negotiations.
- Funding for coronavirus testing, tracing and treatment: The terms of this funding were uncertain, but this topic was hotly debated.
- State and local funding: The proposal included $300 billion for cities and states, up from $250 billion in an earlier proposal.
- Liability protections for businesses: The package addressed a liability shield to protect businesses, schools and doctors from civil lawsuits stemming from exposure to COVID-19.
- School and childcare funding: One of the largest stumbling blocks for passing a new bill is the establishment of a fund to stabilize the education workforce and expand on the previously-passed CARES Act.
As disagreement over a second stimulus bill continue, Joe Biden recently proposed his own plan:
- Additional stimulus checks: Biden noted that the original $1,200 check was a “one-off” and specifically said he would provide additional checks to families if conditions required
- Student loan forgiveness: Student loan payments are currently deferred through the end of the year. Biden’s plan includes a new form of relief in the form of $10,000 in across-the-board student loan forgiveness per borrower.
- Paid sick leave: Regardless of the industry or a company’s size, Biden’s proposal would provide emergency sick leave to everyone in need. This would include often-excluded workers, such as independent contractors and the self-employed.
- Increase Social Security payment: Biden’s stimulus plan calls for an additional $200 added to the monthly payments to Social Security recipients.
Although the finish line for stimulus package has been pushed back, negotiations could still carry on despite the official pause in Congressional activity. While the outcome of the election will have an impact on the ultimate form of the stimulus package, Congress may feel pressure to act to increase consumer spending before the holidays to boost 4th Quarter earnings and kickstart the economy. Still, creating more national testing infrastructure, how and whether to provide funding to schools, and what levels of unemployment aid are deemed necessary will likely be the three most contentious topics. Regardless of the decision on those issues, here are the three ways that stimulus negotiations could play out.
- A White House offer is completed after November 3rd: An agreement is reached that the current House and Senate both approve. If the President signs the bill into law, stimulus checks and other aid would likely begin to go out within weeks.
- A White House offer is finalized and fails in the Senate: In this situation, the House could vote on a deal after the election, but the current Republican-led Senate, could vote it down. In this scenario, Congress might try again after the January 20th inauguration.
- There is no formal stimulus package, but elements could be included in a budget deal that avoids a government shutdown: The federal government’s funding is only approved through December 11, 2020. It’s possible that one aspect of relief, for example a stimulus check, unemployment aid or an extension of the eviction stay, could make its way into a separate bill that is passed to avoid a government shutdown.
In all this uncertainty, it seems the only definitive is that election results will determine the timeline and details of the next stimulus package. If you have any questions about how the stimulus package might impact you, feel free to contact Scott Norcross at firstname.lastname@example.org or 216.736.7264 or Paige Rabatin at email@example.com or 216.736.7270.