Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Monday announced the Senate Republicans’ fourth phase of COVID-19 relief funding, the Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection and Schools or HEALS Act.
The bill includes the following provisions (with comparisons to the Democrats’ latest stimulus bill, the HEROES Act, shown in parenthesis). The information comes from the Policy Resolution Group, a public affairs and communications firm:
- Unemployment support–$200/week through Sept. 30, the payment equal to 70% of wages, capped at $400. (HEROES: $600/week through Jan. 2021.)
- State and Local Aid–$0, but expands allowable uses of CARES funds. (HEROES: $1 trillion.)
- Direct Payments–Same level as CARES, with additional support for dependents. (HEROES: $1,200 per person, with a $6,000 maximum and a $75,000 phase out.)
- Liability Shield–Creates a single federal cause of action for COVID exposure with a broad safe harbor, preempting all state claims. (HEROES: Publicly oppose.)
Commenting on the bill today on the Senate floor, Leader McConnell says, “For months, our legislation has helped cushion the pain of this crisis from coast to coast. But our nation is not finished with this fight. More Americans are dying every day. Millions and millions are unemployed. And the institutions of American life cannot stay totally shut down until our race for a vaccine hits the finish line.”
“Our nation needs to smartly and safely re-open while keeping up the medical battle,” he says, adding, “We need to get kids safely back to school and adults safely back to work without losing ground in the healthcare fight.”
The Senate is expected to debate the bill in the days ahead, all with the goal of reaching a compromise and passing a bill prior to August 7, the final day Congress plans to be in session prior to the August recess.
The bill was introduced by Leader McConnell and several Committee and Subcommittee Chairs: Lamar Alexander, Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions; Roy Blunt, Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies; Susan Collins, THUD Appropriations Subcommittee and Senate Aging Committee; Lindsey Graham, Senate Judiciary Committee; Chuck Grassley, Senate Finance Committee; Marco Rubio, Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship; and Richard Shelby, Senate Appropriations Committee. Also introducing the bill were Senators John Cornyn and Mitt Romney.
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