- Congress has funneled trillions to coronavirus relief efforts. Where is that money going?
- First relief bill: billion
- Second relief bill: 2 billion
- Third relief bill (CARES Act): 2.2 trillion
- Fourth relief bill: 4 billion
- Lawmakers Are Far Apart On A New Coronavirus Relief Bill. Here Are 5 Sticking Points
- 1. Unemployment assistance and direct payments
- 2. Liability reform
- 3. Aid for state and local governments
- 4. Help for schools to reopen
- 5. Small business help
- 5 other things to watch this week:
- Quote of the weekend:
- Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org
Congress has funneled trillions to coronavirus relief efforts. Where is that money going?
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Over the course of two months, Congress has thrown close to $3 trillion at stanching the economic blood-flow of the coronavirus pandemic — but with the job losses mounting, and the country mired in the worst downturn since the Great Depression, some lawmakers contend it’s not enough.
Even with the unprecedented injection of aid, the jobless rate in April hit 14.7 percent, the highest on record since the Great Depression. In the seven weeks since the nation's economy came to a near standstill, more than 33 million Americans have filed for first-time unemployment benefits, meaning the jobless rate will ly continue to climb in May.
Economists have forecast a sharp contraction in GDP in the second quarter, including Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, who acknowledged that there may be an “unprecedented” drop in the second quarter.
CORONAVIRUS LAYOFFS HURTING LOW-INCOME WORKERS THE MOST, STUDY FINDS
On Tuesday, House Democrats unveiled a fifth stimulus package calling for more than $3 trillion in spending, with $1 trillion set aside for states and cities; so-called hazard pay for essential workers on the frontline of the virus outbreak; and another round of one-time $1,200 payments to individuals.
But Republicans are wary of another round of aid — the federal budget deficit could nearly quadruple this year, hitting $3.7 trillion, according to the Congressional Budget Office — with some suggesting they’d to see how the existing $3 trillion trickles through the economy before shoveling more cash at the crisis.
“We just want to make sure that before we jump back in and spend another few trillion of taxpayers’ money that we do it carefully,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said during an interview on “Fox News Sunday.”
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Here’s a guide to where the stimulus money already signed into law by President Trump is going:
First relief bill: $8 billion
At the beginning of March, Trump signed a bipartisan $8 billion deal to provide emergency funding to fight the outbreak of the virus. The bill included about $7.7 billion in discretionary spending to help vaccine development, research, equipment stockpiles and state and local health budgets.
Under the agreement, more than $2 billion would be allocated to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and more than $3 billion would go toward a public health emergency fund and the National Institutes of Health Research. About $1.25 billion would be provided to help protect Americans living abroad.
Second relief bill: $192 billion
In mid-March, lawmakers passed a bill to provide free testing for COVID-19, as well as extend paid sick and family leave; strengthen unemployment insurance; and increase food aid to alleviate the financial burden on some American families.
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At the time, the government did not specify how much the legislation — known as the Families First Coronavirus Response Act — would cost. However, the Congressional Budget Office has estimated that it would add $192 billion to the federal deficit over the next decade.
The legislation created temporary coronavirus-related sick leave benefits paid by employers with fewer than 500 workers. Workers with the virus would receive their full wages if they were self-quarantining, or two-thirds of their pay when caring for a sick family member. It also provided $1.3 billion in emergency food funding.
Third relief bill (CARES Act): $2.2 trillion
The biggest relief package ever passed in the U.S., the CARES Act shoveled cash toward all parts of the U.S. economy to counter the paralysis on activity, a result of stay-at-home measures adopted to mitigate the spread of the virus.
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Most notably, the bill expanded unemployment benefits by $600 per week through July 31; sent a one-time payment of up to $1,200 for Americans earning less than $99,000; and established the Paycheck Protection Program.
Here’s a rough breakdown of the funding in the more than $2 trillion bill:
- Expanding unemployment benefits and broadening which Americans are eligible to receive the cash: $268 billion
- Economic impact payments (cash checks for Americans): $293 billion
- Provides small business loans and grants, including setting up the Paycheck Protection Program, which offered forgivable loans of up to $10 million for businesses with fewer than 500 workers: $377 billion
- Support loans and loan guarantees for large businesses: $510 billion
- Assistance for state and local governments: $150 billion
- Increase health-related spending, including money for hospitals: $153 billion
- Support the safety net, such as increasing food stamps and funding for child nutrition programs: $42 billion
- Disaster assistance (expanding FEMA disaster assistance fund): $45 billion
- Increase education spending: $40 billion
- Support transportation providers and industries: $71 billion
- Reduce individual taxes, including loosening the cap on deductibility of charitable giving; providing temporary deduction for up to $300 of charitable donations; allow up to $100,000 to be withdrawn from retirement accounts penalty-free: $20 billion
- Cut business taxes: $241 billion
Fourth relief bill: $484 billion
The most recent bill signed by Trump in April to blunt the economic pain from the virus included $310 billion to replenish the Paycheck Protection Program (which exhausted its initial $349 billion in funding within 13 days); $60 billion for the Small Business Administration disaster assistance loans and grants; $75 billion for hospitals struggling to cover costs; and $25 billion to ramp up testing efforts.
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Lawmakers Are Far Apart On A New Coronavirus Relief Bill. Here Are 5 Sticking Points
Lawmakers return to the Capitol on Monday. On Saturday, the flag was lowered to half staff to honor the life of Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., who died late Friday.
Michael A. McCoy / Getty Images
Congress returns from a summer recess Monday as many states experience spikes in confirmed coronavirus cases.
State governments face a precipitous drop in revenue, parents and teachers are debating how kids will return to school in the fall, and millions of unemployed workers face the prospect of their pandemic assistance running out at the end of the month.
But there have been zero negotiations between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and they remain very far apart on the contours of what should be in another relief bill.
Pelosi pushed again last week for the $3 trillion HEROES Act the House passed more than two months ago. But that bill, which was approved largely along party lines, was ignored by McConnell — and also met with a veto threat by the president.
McConnell insists he's writing the next bill on his own and has indicated he's looking at something significantly smaller — around $1 trillion. Senate Democrats haven't heard any details and, according to a source on a call with the Democratic caucus last week, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said he would only engage in talks if House Democrats were included.
McConnell is expected to unveil his proposal early this week, according to an aide familiar with the leader's plans. After discussions with Senate Republicans at a lunch on Tuesday, the bill could be rolled out if the GOP conference backs the blueprint.
He has repeatedly said no bill would pass without liability protection related to everyone from health care workers, businesses and schools.
“Nobody should have to face an epidemic of lawsuits on the heels of the pandemic we already have related to the coronavirus,” McConnell said last week when visiting a health care facility in his home state.
President Trump agrees there needs to be more aid, and has repeatedly insisted that schools need to be back in person in the fall. He wasn't an active negotiator in talks on the previous packages, but last week, a White House spokesperson said the president is pushing again for a payroll tax cut.
That is something he's previously said he wanted but it hasn't gained significant support from members of his own party or from Democrats, according to aides from both parties. In a “Fox News Sunday” interview, Trump said he would consider vetoing a bill that did not have a payroll tax cut in it.
Pelosi dismisses GOP efforts to scale down a package from the ambitious plan the House passed.
“If we don't put money in the pockets of the American people with their direct payments and unemployment insurance, it will be much worse,” Pelosi told reporters on Capitol Hill last week.
Leaders from both parties maintain they want to approve a deal and send it to the president to sign before they head out for an August recess, which marks the final campaign push before the November elections. Pelosi has said she will “absolutely” delay the start of recess in order to get something in place, but there are several major policy areas where both sides would need to move.
Here are the key sticking points:
1. Unemployment assistance and direct payments
Congress extended unemployment insurance benefits and added a $600-per-week benefit to help those impacted by the pandemic, but that boost in assistance expires on July 31. Both sides agree states will need more money to keep paying assistance, but the additional weekly payment is where Democrats and Republicans part ways.
Related: The End Of $600 Unemployment Benefits Will Hit Millions Of Households And The Economy
McConnell argues that renewing that full payment is a disincentive for the jobless to return to work, because for many people, the combined benefits are more in weekly wages than they would receive if they go back to their jobs.
Congress approved $300 billion in the CARES Act in March in direct payments for Americans — $1,200 or less for individuals, depending on their income level. Families received more — up to an income cap — and also were eligible for $500 per child.
Pelosi signaled Democrats could accept some amount lower than the $600 benefit if there were other provisions giving government aid, another round of checks.
“The whole package will depend on what we do also for direct payments, which are so essential,” Pelosi said.
2. Liability reform
Pelosi has bristled at McConnell's insistence that there is a red line that any new bill includes legal protections for a broad array of businesses, hospitals, workers and K-12 schools and universities.
Instead, she argues that worker protections that Democrats added for Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations are the preferred way to address that. “That is their protection,” she said. “It's their best defense.”
McConnell has been working with Texas GOP Sen. John Cornyn, a former prosecutor, on the liability provisions and a draft was shared with the White House last week. According to the draft, obtained by NPR, the measure would include a temporary shield from lawsuits related to the pandemic from December 2019 through 2024.
3. Aid for state and local governments
The House-passed bill provided roughly $1 trillion to state and local governments. In recent weeks, many states have warned they are facing decisions about cuts to key services, as tax revenues have plummeted with many businesses closed or operating at reduced levels.
McConnell has acknowledged some state aid is needed, but the parties are far apart on the details, and many Republican lawmakers say any new money has to be funneled for items directly related to the virus, not to paying down deficits in the states.
Pelosi and other Democrats warn that without more help, states will have to lay off first responders or cut education budgets, which are tight with new demands related to the coronavirus.
4. Help for schools to reopen
McConnell shifted his emphasis in the last couple of weeks to note that the next package will not only need to address liability issues, but will have to include help for schools.
Related: Biden Releases Proposal For Reopening Schools
The HEROES Act includes $100 billion to fortify school districts' budgets as they work to buy personal protective equipment and other equipment and technology for remote learning, as needed. Separately, Democrats included more money for schools in an infrastructure bill they approved recently.
Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden rolled out his own proposal for what schools need, including an additional $30 billion.
But as coronavirus cases spike in some regions and schools reevaluate plans to bring students back in person, some Republicans argue additional money should be conditioned on schools returning to full-time, in-person schedules.
5. Small business help
The Paycheck Protection Program, which provided loans to small businesses, was one the most popular federal components of the $2 trillion CARES Act enacted in March.
The money went quickly, and Congress approved more for the program, but issues about transparency and some larger businesses getting the money raised concerns about how to structure any additional assistance.
5 other things to watch this week:
1. Trump's plan for the suburbs: Last week, Trump said that on Tuesday, he'd be “discussing our one plan on suburbia, but that's one of many, many different plans.
” Trump has been pitching “law and order” and “local” control over zoning laws, and issuing dire warnings about what Democrats would do to “our beautiful and successful suburbs” as a way to try and scare and appeal to whites in the suburbs.
Why the focus on the suburbs? Consider that in 2016 Trump won the suburbs narrowly. But in polling against Biden, Trump is getting trounced by 25 points among voters there, according to the latest NPR/”PBS NewsHour”/Marist poll.
2. House hearing on COVID-19 vaccines: Also Tuesday, a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee holds a hearing on the efforts to develop coronavirus vaccines. Witnesses include AstraZeneca Vice President Mene Pangalos, Johnson & Johnson Head of Clinical Development Macaya Douoguih and Moderna President Stephen Hoge.
Dr. Anthony Fauci said Friday on PBS NewsHour that he's still “cautiously optimistic” that a vaccine will come online by the end of the year, with distribution in 2021.
3. Preparations for the 2020 election: On Wednesday, the Senate Rules and Administration Committee holds a hearing about preparations states are taking for the 2020 elections. Witnesses include two Republican secretaries of state, Tre Hargett of Tennessee and West Virginia's Mac Warner.
Hargett has resisted making mail-in voting available to all voters. In March, Warner said every voter would be receiving an absentee ballot application in the mail, something Trump has criticized other election administration officials in other states for doing.
West Virginia went for Trump by the widest margin of any state in 2016.
4. Back to school? The House holds a hearing Thursday on reopening schools. The White House blocked Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Robert Redfield from testifying, according to Democrats on the House education committee.
“It is alarming that the Trump administration is preventing the CDC from appearing before the committee at a time when its expertise and guidance is so critical to the health and safety of students, parents, and educators,” Chairman Bobby Scott of Virginia said in a statement.
The White House says Redfield has testified multiple times before Congress in the last few months.
5. Federal moratorium on evictions expires Friday: According to one survey, 30% of Americans missed housing payments at the beginning of June.
Since the coronavirus pandemic hit, several states and the federal government banned evicting people. The federal eviction ban expires Friday.
Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif, on the short list to be Biden's running mate, introduced a bill last week that would extend the ban a year and in that time, not allow landlords to raise rents or report missed payment to credit reporting agencies. A yearlong ban on rental evictions is in Democrats' coronavirus relief bill.
Quote of the weekend:
“You know, I gave a little blood for the right to vote, almost died on that bridge in Selma. I'm not going to stand by and see the people take the vote from us. We have to use it. If we fail to use it, we will lose it.”
— John Lewis, the former congressman and civil rights icon who died Friday, as quoted by NPR's Don Gonyea at a church in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 2018
Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org