January 24, 2021
Senate's $1 trillion bills versus $1.8 trillion White House package: Only one has a stimulus check

Senate’s $1 trillion bills versus $1.8 trillion White House package: Only one has a stimulus check


Talks on a second stimulus check are moving ahead in fits and starts. Here’s the latest status update.

Angela Lang/CNET

All eyes are on Congress, as pressure mounts to pass another stimulus relief bill this year, either though a series of stand-alone bills or a large comprehensive package. The coronavirus pandemic continues to wreak havoc on the economy and public health: More than 219,000 people in the US have died from COVID-19, according to Johns Hopkins University, and there are more than 8 million known cases in the US

President Donald Trump is urging Republicans and Democrats to work together to pass a new stimulus bill — despite first tweeting support for stopping negotiations and then saying that he wants lawmakers to go “big” on a $1.8 trillion package presented on Oct. 9. That bill includes funding for another $1,200 stimulus check for eligible Americans, along with a renewal of payroll assistance for the airlines and other industries.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin have spoken daily, and they say they’re making progress on language, funding and other details in the bill. Meanwhile, Trump has urged Congress to “go higher” than the $1.8 trillion package. 

But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has pushed back, and said Republicans in the Senate wouldn’t approve of an increase in funding. On Tuesday, McConnell is preparing to bring a $500 billion stand-alone bill in support of the Paycheck Protection Program to a vote. The next day, the Senate will vote again on its $500 billion “skinny” bill from September, which didn’t pass and was blocked by Democrats. Neither smaller bill would include stimulus checks, and both are unlikely to clear the House of Representatives.

Confused yet? You’re not alone. We’ll help you get a handle on what exactly could be included in a stand-alone bill or a larger stimulus package — one that would either squeak by in the couple of weeks before the Nov. 3 election or perhaps be returned to the drawing board after the election. This story updates often.

What the two Senate bills include

The Senate’s Oct. 20 PPP bill: This $500 billion effort will focus on the Paycheck Protection Program that was part of this spring’s CARES Act and provided forgivable loans to small businesses as an incentive to keep employees on the payroll. This bill doesn’t include funding for another round of stimulus checks.

Skinny” bill revote: On Oct. 21, the Senate will vote again on a $500 billion package that includes a $300 enhanced unemployment benefit and aid for small businesses, funding for school reopenings, and support for the US Postal Service. It also has limited liability protection for employers and health care workers, which sets limits on who can sue if they contract COVID-19. It won’t include a stimulus check for individuals.

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Next stimulus checks: What to expect


Other single-issue stimulus bill proposals

$1,200 stimulus checks: On Oct. 6, after being hospitalized for COVID-19, Trump said he’d sign a bill authorizing another $1,200 check immediately. Another direct payment to qualified people is one of the areas that everyone — both Republicans and Democrats — appear to agree on.

Airline assistance: With the airline industry hit hard by the coronavirus-induced economic downturn and starting to furlough workers, negotiators have tagged airline assistance for stand-alone legislation. “Let me just be really clear,” Pelosi said Oct. 8. “I have been very open to having a stand-alone bill for the airlines.” The House earlier passed a $28.8 billion airline support bill that Pelosi suggested could be the starting point for legislation. 

Support for the US Postal Service: This summer, the House passed a bill that would address concerns about the service and the upcoming election and provide $25 billion in additional funding. The Senate didn’t take up the bill.

So what’s in the White House’s $1.8 trillion stimulus proposal?

For months, Pelosi and Mnuchin have been meeting to discuss the size and approach of the next economic relief bill. Negotiating every day this past week, the two are coming closer to reaching an agreement.

According to The Washington Post, Mnuchin’s current offer stands at $1.8 trillion and includes:

Another stimulus payment: Stimulus checks up to $1,200 for eligible adults and $1,000 for qualifying child dependents (the CARES Act set dependent payments at $500).

Unemployment benefits: The proposal sets enhanced unemployment benefits at $400 a week (down from the $600 included in the CARES Act but up from the $300 that Trump authorized this summer through executive action).

Funding for coronavirus testing and tracing: Earlier this week, Mnuchin ceded ground on this previous blocker, saying the White House would include money for coronavirus testing and tracing into its stimulus offer

State and local funding: A big sticking point, the proposal includes $300 billion for cities and states, up from $250 billion in an earlier proposal.

$100 bills

Enhanced unemployment benefits are already ending in many states, leaving people waiting anxiously for a new relief package that includes more funding for the program.

James Martin/CNET

What’s in the Democrats’ $2.2 trillion stimulus bill?

Pelosi continues to point to the updated version of The Heroes Act (PDF) as the basis for a new bill. The House passed the bill on Oct. 1 largely along party lines. The new Heroes Act includes:

Direct payments: The current Democratic proposal includes payments of up to $1,200 per individual and $500 for each dependent.

Payroll support for small businesses and airline workers: The Democratic plan would refund payroll protections and extend the program to airline workers

Unemployment benefits: The plan would reauthorize $600 federal unemployment payments, through January 2021.

State and local funding: The bill would provide assistance to state and local governments to pay essential workers, including first responders and health workers.

Housing assistance: The proposal would renew financial support for renters and homeowners to meet rental and mortgage payments.

For more information, here’s what you need to know about coronavirus hardship loans and unemployment insurance, and what you can do if you’ve lost your job.

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