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Congress Strikes $2 Trillion Stimulus Deal

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Lawmakers reached an agreement on a $2 trillion fiscal stimulus plan early Wednesday morning that includes a “dramatic expansion” of unemployment insurance, a big boost for the health care system and direct checks to Americans.

The Senate plans to vote on the package Wednesday.

The House must also consider the package.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a Wednesday morning statement that the bipartisan Senate bill “takes us a long way down the road in meeting the needs of the American people,” but doesn’t go as far as the counteroffer she floated on Tuesday. “Thanks to the unity and insistence of Senate and House Democrats, the bill has moved a great deal closer to America’s workers.”

Ed Mills, policy analyst for Raymond James, told ThinkAdvisor on Wednesday morning that because some House Republicans oppose the Senate bill a unanimous consent vote is unlikely. “But they are working to see if they can do it as a voice vote to avoid requiring all members to return to DC and get it done ASAP.”

Details about direct checks to Americans were not provided, but The Wall Street Journal reported that talk has been of one-time checks worth $1,200 to many Americans, with $500 available to children, with the assistance capped above certain income levels.

The extended UI program increases the maximum unemployment benefit by $600 per week and ensures that laid-off workers, on average, will receive their full pay for four months, said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

“It ensures that all workers are protected whether they work for businesses small, medium or large, along with self-employed and workers in the gig economy,” Schumer said.

The bill would allow workers to get unemployment insurance quickly and would allow furloughed workers to stay on as employees.

To provide treatment during the pandemic, Schumer said that the final agreement will include more than $150 billion in healthcare aid.

Lawmakers have been building on a bill introduced last week by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., that failed two procedural votes in the Senate. Additions made since Sunday include:

  • 4 months of increased unemployment insurance instead of 3 months provided by the McConnell bill
  • a $55 billion increase in aid to the health care system
  • $10 billion for emergency grants of up to $10,000 from the Small Business Administration
  • $17 billion for SBA to cover 6 months of payments for small businesses with existing SBA loans.
  • $30 billion in emergency education funding and $25 billion in emergency transit funding.
  • A prohibition on businesses controlled by the president, vice president, members of congress, and heads of executive departments from receiving loans or investments from Treasury programs.
  • Making rent, mortgage and utility costs eligible for SBA loan forgiveness.
  • A ban on stock buybacks for the term of the government assistance plus one year on any company receiving a government loan from the bill.
  • A retention tax credit for employers to encourage businesses to keep workers on payroll during the crisis.
  • Income tax exclusion for individuals who are receiving student loan repayment assistance from their employer.
  • Eliminates a provision in the McConnell bill that provided $3 billion to restock the Strategic Petroleum Reserve
  • Eliminates a provision that would have allowed bailouts to corporations to be concealed for 6 months.
  • Saves hundreds of thousands of airline industry jobs, according to Schumer, and prohibits airlines from stock buybacks and CEO bonuses.

“I am pleased to report that our hard work has paid off,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Wednesday morning on the Senate floor. “We have reached an agreement to address this public health emergency, support our local communities, and most importantly, put America’s workers first.”

Schumer said Democrats worked with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and President Donald Trump to craft the bipartisan package. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., “presented us with a partisan coronavirus relief bill on Sunday morning, written exclusively by Republicans,” Schumer said in a letter to colleagues.

McConnell tweeted early Wednesday morning: “At last, we have a deal. After days of intense discussions, the Senate has reached a bipartisan agreement on a historic relief package for this pandemic. We’re going to pass this legislation later today.”

Schumer said on the Senate floor that “like all compromises, this bill is far from perfect, but we believe the legislation has been improved significantly to warrant its quick consideration and passage.”

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