Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced Monday that Republican senators will be introducing a coronavirus aid proposal, titled the HEALS Act, and hope to work with Democrats this week to quickly pass the legislation.
“Health, economic assistance, liability and schools,” the Kentucky Republican said on the Senate floor. “Another historic package for the next stage of this historic national fight.”
He said the draft legislation is “tailored and targeted” to focus on getting children back to school and workers back to jobs, and winning the health care fight against the coronavirus pandemic.
More than $100 billion is expected to be allocated for schools, universities and child care facilities in order for them to prepare to welcome students back in the fall.
Funds will also go to small businesses so they have enough resources to purchase personal protective equipment to keep workers and customers safe.
Lastly, there will also be money allocated for treatments, vaccines and diagnostics to combat the coronavirus pandemic.
The majority leader put pressure on the Democrats to come to the negotiating table and work in a bipartisan way to pass the legislation quickly to help Americans.
“To make a law, bipartisan talks need to come next,” Mr. McConnell said.
“Which version of our distinguished Democratic colleagues are the American people about to get?” he asked, referencing how Democrats blocked the Senate GOP from introducing a police reform bill in June. “They need to put aside their partisan stonewalling.”
Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer took to the chamber floor following Mr. McConnell to put the blame on the GOP for delaying legislation.
He said the proposals mentioned thus far by Republicans do not include hazard pay for essential workers or funds for food assistance for hungry children that need to eat.
He said the GOP was supposed to unveil the bill last week but delayed because of fractions in their own party. The New York Democrat went on to suggest half of the Republicans won’t support the stimulus because they do not want trillions more in government assistance going out during the pandemic.
He said the delay allowed a moratorium on evictions to lapse and put 20 to 30 million people receiving unemployment in limbo with those set to expire at the end of the week.
“The White House and Senate Republicans couldn’t get their act together and wasted precious time,” Mr. Schumer said.
According to Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican, there will be more federal funding in this relief bill than the CARES Act that was originally passed in March to reimburse local government and nonprofits so layoffs can be prevented.
He also said unemployment benefits will replace 70 percent of lost wages, as there had been disagreement within the GOP about continuing the $600 a week in unemployment benefits from the first relief bill, as many lawmakers have voiced concerns that the high amount prevents workers from returning to work.
“This is a much more responsible approach that we didn’t have time to work out in the first CARES Act,” Mr. Grassley said.
A tax credit for businesses to use for cleaning and purchasing equipment needed to maintain a safe workplace for employees and customers is also included in the proposal.
Americans will also have another round of $1,200 checks from the government and there will be $500 for dependents.
Sen. Susan Collins, Maine Republican, drafted a proposal along with Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida to allow small businesses to receive more funding from the government in the Paycheck Protective Program (PPP).
Small businesses with 300 or fewer employees that have had revenue decrease by 50 percent or more can apply for the second round of PPP forgivable loans from the federal government.
“There are so many small employers and their employees who have been kept afloat by the first PPP loan they received but need a second one to survive this persistent pandemic,” Ms. Collins said.
Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican, drafted a proposal to protect businesses, schools and health care workers from frivolous lawsuits.
“Across the country, we are seeing lawsuits rolling in targeting the very health care workers who are on the front lines,” he said.
Though, gross negligence actions and intentional misconduct will still be actionable.
“This is not a blanket liability shield,” Mr. Cornyn noted.
The GOP proposal is expected to be about $1 trillion, though Democrats have suggested a $4 trillion package is what the nation currently needs.
Under the draft GOP legislation, $16 billion in federal funding would go to states to ramp up testing with an emphasis on schools, employers, child care facilities, and nursing homes.
Roughly $26 billion will go to developing and distributing therapeutics, diagnostics and vaccines.
For education stabilization, $105 billion will go toward helping schools adapt to the pandemic as they reopen.
There will also be $20 billion in assistance to farmers and ranchers, as well as $30 billion to bolster the U.S. defense industrial base.
“We must never take our eyes off the ball there,” said Sen. Richard Shelby, Alabama Republican.
Almost immediately, Democrats pushed back against lowering the unemployment benefits from $600 a week to $200.
“People can lose their homes,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown, Ohio Democrat. “Essentially, the Trump-McConnell plan tells people they are on their own.”
“Their plans don’t come close to being enough,” he added.