Timeline Slipping on Next COVID-19 Relief Package
A fourth package of pandemic relief is not expected to emerge from the Senate until after the July 4 recess. And Senate leaders say it will not resemble the House-passed HEROES Act, which expanded the Paycheck Protection Program to include associations.
Senate leaders say the next package of COVID-19 relief will be the final major legislation this year aimed at alleviating economic stress related to the pandemic, and it will be a smaller package than the $3 trillion HEROES Act passed by the House last month.
While initially aiming to pass something before the July 4 recess, the Senate has not started drafting its bill, and lawmakers now hope to have a package assembled before the August recess. The House is also out of session until June 30.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has called the HEROES Act a Democratic “wish list” and is concerned about the size and cost of the legislation, which is nearly $800 billion more than the CARES Act, which Congress enacted in March. McConnell has also slammed House Democrats for recessing this month while the Senate remains in session.
“There is plenty of work before the Senate,” McConnell said this week. “And unlike the Democratic House of Representatives, which I understand may next appear in Washington in about a month, the Senate is present and working.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) criticized McConnell for waiting to craft the next COVID-19 relief package. “Leader McConnell wants us to ‘pause,’ but the virus is not pausing and neither can we,” Pelosi said this week.
Although the coronavirus pandemic has forced more than 40 million Americans out of work over the past 11 weeks, McConnell and other Republicans have been reluctant to extend the additional $600 weekly unemployment benefit that is slated to end on July 31. McConnell also wants liability protections in the next package to shield businesses, including nonprofits, from lawsuits by employees who might become infected by the coronavirus while at work.
“We’re taking a careful look at a fourth and final bill,” McConnell said. “You could anticipate the decision being made on whether to go forward in about a month. And it will be narrowly crafted, designed to help us where we are a month from now, not where we were three months ago.”
The dim prospects for the HEROES Act in the Senate are a blow to associations that were left out of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) created by the CARES Act. ASAE and its member advocates have spent weeks urging Congress to provide specific relief through the PPP for associations impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Under the HEROES Act, any 501(c) entity with 500 or fewer employees would be able to apply for PPP funds. The bill also extends the covered period for PPP loans to December 31, 2020, and loans could be stretched over 24 weeks instead of the eight weeks established by the CARES Act.
A bill that passed the Senate Wednesday, after passing the House last week, will ease restrictions on PPP loans, but the measure does not expand eligibility for the program to include 501(c) associations.
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