As we reported in ACPA TODAY last Wednesday, Senate Republicans released details of the HEALS Act, the latest COVID-relief and recovery package whose funding level is set at $1.2 trillion.

The Senate did not vote on the legislation, instead releasing it to serve as the initial negotiation position for the Republican members and the White House.

Friday marked the expiration of the additional $600 weekly federal unemployment benefits, and as we’re seeing in media reports, this is a major sticking point.

Senate Republicans and members of the Trump administration object to the extra $600, saying it’s like paying Americans not to work, stating two-thirds of Americans have received more money in unemployment benefits than they did from their former jobs. Republicans attempted to pass a one-week extension of the $600 benefit as the two parties continue to negotiate a new stimulus package but could not get enough votes in the Senate to pass it on to the House.

House Democrats, led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, are demanding the extra $600 weekly payment remain in place through January 2021, a key part of the HEROES Act they passed in May.

At this writing, the two sides have still not reached a compromise, but their goal is to strike a deal by mid-month. Although the details have yet to be worked out, here’s a look at how the bill, as proposed, would affect the cement and concrete industry:

  • Improvements to the Work Opportunity Tax Credit to hire those on unemployment insurance; it would now cover 65% of wages up to $30,000 (Currently 50% of the first $10,000).
  • Reforms to the Paycheck Protection Program so that recipients can also claim the Employee Retention Credit.
  • Liability protections for businesses, schools, and other entities.
  • A 100% deduction on business meals through 2021.
  • A 50% credit for employee testing and cleaning of workspaces.
  • $2 billion for the Department of the Treasury to improve taxpayer services.
  • $10 billion in funding for the Airport Improvement Program to help airports maintain operations as they are facing a significant drop in passengers.

 Other key highlights include:

  • An additional round of $1,200 stimulus checks to taxpayers.
  • A cut in federal unemployment supplemental from $600 to $200 for sixty days.
  • $105 billion for schools to reopen with two-thirds of funding tied to them reopening.
  • $16 billion for more coronavirus testing.
  • The proposal does not provide additional revenue to state and local governments.

 (Source: PCA’s “This week in Washington” and independent outlets.)

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