Senate Republicans on Monday unveiled their proposal to stimulate the U.S. economy as it continues to reel from the COVID-19 pandemic, outlining its plan after some states stopped paying out the expanded $600-per-week unemployment insurance payments.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced the GOP bill will be called the HEALS Act, which stands for health, economic, assistance, liability protection, and schools.
The details of the plan, according to the Kentucky Republican's remarks on the Senate floor, include $1,200 direct payments similar to the CARES Act, a sequel to the Payment Protection Program (PPP) to help small businesses, more funding for schools, and a liability shield for hospitals, businesses, and other entities. Treatment, testing, and vaccines funding will also be included.
Perhaps the most contentious issue is the expanded unemployment insurance. McConnell said there will be a federal unemployment insurance bonus but suggested it will be less than the $600 per week benefits that have been in effect since the CARES Act was signed into law in March. Democrats, in their HEROES Act, sought to push the extra benefits to January 2021.
"Just like in March, with the CARES Act, Senate Republicans have authored another bold framework to help our nation … Health, Economic Assistance, Liability, and Schools. Another historic package for the next phase of this historic national fight," McConnell said on the floor.
Unconfirmed reports over the weekend indicated that Republicans would cut the unemployment benefits to $200 per week, while Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin previously said it would set the enhanced insurance at 70 percent of a worker's previous wages.
GOP leaders previously said they wanted their proposal to serve as a starting point in discussions with Democrats that could pass both the House and the Senate.
Following McConnell's remarks, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) described McConnell's proposal as "unworkable," adding that Senate Republicans have done little in the past three months. All members of the Senate went on a nearly three-week-long recess that ended on July 20.
"The Senate majority was content to do almost nothing for three long months," said Schumer, adding that "we are on the precipice of several cliffs," referring to federal unemployment insurance ending.
Schumer warned that if the unemployment measures are not extended, "we could go into a depression."
The GOP plan will not include any money for state and local governments that have been impacted during the pandemic. That provision is a central pillar of the $3 trillion HEROES Act.
In his speech, McConnell described the HEROES Act as a "socialist manifesto" that won't pass both chambers of Congress.