House unveils $2.2T stimulus package, demands federal assistance to protect public safety

The bill includes $436B in funds to help state, local governments avoid layoffs of first responders, teachers and healthcare workers


Jonathan D. Salant
NJ Advance Media Group, Edison, N.J.

WASHINGTON, DC — You’d get another $1,200 payment and, if you are out of work, an extra $600 a week in unemployment insurance payments under the latest House version of legislation designed help Americans through the coronavirus-created economic downturn.

The legislation would spend $2.2 trillion, down from the $3.4 trillion package that the House approved in May, which the Senate refused to take up and President Donald Trump threatened to veto.

The latest House measure, released as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin resumed talks, included the Democrats' non-negotiable demand for federal assistance to state and local governments, though at half the original level.

It remained substantially more than the Senate Republicans’ $500 billion bill that failed to pass and their original $1 trillion measure that they didn’t bring up for a vote due to lack of support.

It also was larger than the bipartisan $1.5 trillion proposal offered by a group of more moderate Democratic and Republican lawmakers and which has received praise from Trump. That proposal by the Problem Solvers Caucus automatically would grow to $1.9 trillion if the pandemic continues and a vaccine remains elusive.

Rep. Josh Gottheimer, co-chair of the Problem Solvers Caucus, said he hoped the latest House proposal would lead to an agreement.

“With families, businesses, and local communities truly hurting from the impacts of this health and economic crisis, it’s unconscionable for Congress to go home without taking action,” said Gottheimer, D-5th Dist.

The House bill ignores Republican efforts to protect businesses from lawsuits by injured customers and workers, and increase taxpayer subsidies for religious and other private schools.

But it does require the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to issue strong standards for businesses, and the Problem Solvers Caucus has proposed immunizing companies that meet such safety requirements from coronavirus-related lawsuits.

Here are the highlights of the latest proposal:

  • Stimulus payments. Taxpayers would receive $1,200, plus $500 for each dependent.
  • Unemployment insurance. The bill restores the extra $600 federal unemployment insurance payment through Jan. 31. Gig workers and others who normally do not get unemployment payments would continue to receive them through Jan. 31 as well. Those who use up their eligibility would receive up to 13 additional weeks of payments through Jan. 31.
  • State and local aid. There is $436 billion, down from an original $1 trillion, for state, local, territorial and tribal governments that have seen tax revenues drop after shutting down their economies to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The funds would help them avoid layoffs of police, firefighters, teachers and health care workers. New Jersey would receive $8.7 billion and its municipalities $5.3 billion, according to figures provided by Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., D-6th Dist.
  • Help for businesses. The paycheck protection program would be extended and small businesses could request a second loan. In addition, a new program would provide federal aid for restaurants and operators of live venues. There would be more money for the airline industry. And businesses would continue to receive tax credits for keeping their workers on the payroll.
  • Education. The bill earmarks $225 billion for elementary and secondary schools and colleges and universities. Unlike the Senate proposal, the House bill does not penalize schools that open remotely rather than in person.
  • Testing. Coronavirus testing and contact tracing would get $75 billion, and another $28 billion would go towards obtaining and distributing a vaccine.
  • Public transportation. Amtrak would receive $2.4 billion and transit systems would receive $32 billion to help cover revenue losses.
  • Health insurance. The bill sets up a special enrollment period for workers who have lost their jobs to obtain coverage under the Affordable Care Act exchanges, and they would be eligible for the maximum subsidy for insurance.
  • Vote by mail. The Postal Service would receive $15 billion, down from an original $25 billion, to help deliver what is expected to be an unprecedented number of mail-in ballots, and local elections officials would receive $3.6 billion to cover the extra costs of voting by mail.
  • Helping the needy. There is more money for housing and for food stamps and other nutrition programs.

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©2020 NJ Advance Media Group, Edison, N.J.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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