- The new coronavirus relief package Senate Republicans have been working on this week is very likely to include funding for new stimulus check payments to Americans, based on reports of how the negotiations are going.
- Republican leaders could formally introduce their new coronavirus stimulus bill as soon as Thursday.
- The timing of new coronavirus stimulus legislation is crucial, for reasons that include increased unemployment aid set to expire in a matter of days.
If everything goes according to plan — which is probably the most naive sentence to utter at this point in time, but let’s just go with it for the sake of argument — Republicans, who control the US Senate, will unveil a new stimulus package as soon as today. The idea is to get this quickly approved in the Senate and, with as little delay as possible, to get it matched up with a legislative counterpart from the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives, so that a bill becomes final and signed by President Trump with all necessary swiftness because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Needless to say, the stakes couldn’t be higher for Congress to get this right. The pandemic won’t likely abate anytime soon — heck, even White House health advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci says the coronavirus will probably never go away. Tens of millions of Americans are newly out of work as a result of the virus’ catastrophic financial impact. JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon said this week no one has any idea what’s going to happen next to the US economy: “The word unprecedented is rarely used properly. This time, it’s being used properly.” The stock market will most likely explode if Congress is seen as approving a weak or not-good-enough stimulus bill (or, heaven help us, not being able to agree on anything at all). So where do things stand now, with a little more than a week left to go in the month (and, among other things, an extra $600/week bump in unemployment benefits poised to expire for millions of Americans)?
Here’s a quick rundown on what’s expected to be in the new package that Republicans unveil:
Let’s take that last item first, the unemployment insurance aid. The extra $600/week in unemployment aid has been vital for the millions of newly-jobless Americans, thrown out of work as a result of the economic destruction wrought by the coronavirus. And according to US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, the Republicans’ new coronavirus stimulus package will include another extension of unemployment aid “based on approximately 70% wage replacement,” he told CNBC on Thursday. Maryland Democrat and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told CNBC that 70% wage replacement is not “the policy we ought to pursue” and that “if we’re going to ratchet that down, it ought to be over time.” But he also said that “it’s not a dealbreaker.”
Other related things to look for here: Republican leaders have also warmed to the idea of a return-to-work bonus of some kind. And we also expect unemployment benefits to be extended through December 31 under a stimulus bill.
No payroll tax cut. President Trump had previously said he wants this in a new bill, and if included it would immediately put more money in Americans’ pockets by taking less out of each paycheck they get from their employer. However, in his CNBC interview, Mnuchin said no dice — this won’t be in the stimulus package, after all.
School aid. Republicans are reportedly planning to appropriate $105 billion to support the reopening of schools and $15 billion for child care centers.
New stimulus checks. And now, the big item everyone is most keenly interested in. The good news is the Republican package is likely to include funding for a new round of stimulus checks, with Kentucky Republican and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell going on record in support of new stimulus checks in the range of $1,200, which was the size of the individual checks in the first wave of payments. However, we’ll have to wait and see what the final amount will be, as White House officials and negotiators haven’t hammered out that amount yet.