As we continue to follow legislation that affects debt relief and eviction moratoriums, we’re continuing our series on key legislation currently up for debate in the next round of proposed coronavirus aid. The proposed HEALS (Health, Economic Assistance, Liability and Schools) Act will play a key role in drafting a final bill that could allow the continuation of unemployment benefits, debt relief and moratoriums on evictions and mortgage assistance, among other significant financial issues.
If you’re finding it hard to keep up with legislation as it relates to the CARES, HEROES and HEALS Acts you're not alone. Here are some important differences in these bills and the likely next steps in getting further pandemic legislation signed into law.
The previously passed CARES Act
The largest aid package in US History, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act is a $2 trillion relief act signed into law on March 27th. This bill was the first of its kind, but not likely the last. The CARES Act was aimed at providing relief to individuals, businesses and government organizations.
The CARES Act was designed to be a relief package. What is the difference between this and future stimulus packages?
It’s important to understand the difference between a relief package and a stimulus package. As explained in the article “Careful or careless? Perspectives on the CARES Act” on Friday march 27, 2020 on Brookings.edu by Grace Edna, William G. Gale and Claire Haldeman, “Relief addresses immediate fallout while stimulus aims to restore robust economic activity.” The CARES Act was designed to be immediate, emergency relief. Prolonged stimulus will need to be included in forthcoming legislation designed to provide longer term solutions, as this particular bill was not designed as a long-term stimulus solution.
What key issues in the HEROES Act could still be passed?
House Democrats passed a $3 trillion coronavirus relief package, called the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act on May 15th. As Senate Republicans vocally oppose this bill, it has little chance of becoming law--as it stands. However, some key items that can be negotiated in the Senate version of the HEALS Act currently under debate include:
- Emergency supplemental appropriations to federal agencies as well as payments and assistance to state, local, tribal and territorial governments.
- Extension of some form of direct payments to individuals.
- Expansion of paid sick days, family and medical leave, unemployment compensation, nutrition and food assistance programs, rental and mortgage assistance including eviction moratoriums
- Modification of the Paycheck Protection Program.
- Expansion of tax credits and deductions and debt relief from creditors and collectors.
- Additional aid and funding for the U.S. Postal Service, prisons, veteran benefits, student loans, housing protection and aid programs for renters and homeowners, health insurance, federal election funds and extension of modified regulations for pension and retirement plans.
How Does the current HEALS Act in the Senate offer to help the struggling U.S. Economy?
On Monday July 27th Senate Republicans announced their $1 trillion Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection and Schools (HEALS Act). Both the HEROES and HEALS Acts call for a repetition of the $1,200 direct payment to individuals who meet the income limits. You can find out what your payout would be under the proposed HEALS Act by visiting this stimulus check calculator. This handy tool will also let you find your proposed stimulus check payout under the HEROES Act.
Key differences in the HEALS Act include:
- No provisions for those without a social security number.
- No age limit on dependents. (previously it was 17)
- Unemployment supplements of $200 per week until states are able to implement the GOP’s new formula (currently stands at $600 per week).
- No extension of the federal eviction moratorium or adequate housing relief for renters, instead provides $3.3 billion for lost income for Housing Choice Voucher, Public Housing and Rural rental assistance tenants.
- The HEALS Act will provide mortgage assistance for those who lost their jobs because of the coronavirus and will extend the provision that allows homeowners to pause payments or lower their monthly payment without penalty.
- A five-year moratorium on coronavirus-related lawsuits against businesses, health care centers and schools.
What's next for the HEALS Act?
As ‘do something, do anything’ sentiment grows across the nation, the HEALS Act faces growing opposition as it stands. Faced with an upcoming election, a growing number of Senate Republicans are signaling a willingness to put forward a smaller package as talks on a more comprehensive COVID-19 relief bill continue.
July 31st marks the expiration of unemployment benefits and a short-term extension is being considered due to urgency. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) was quoted in The Hill on July 29th, "That may need to happen. I mean, ultimately ... we're not going to have a universal agreement in place by Friday, so there may be some things that have to be done that way."
Ultimately, the deadline stands at August 7th when Congress goes into recess. Both the Senate and the House have until then to turn proposed legislation into a bill that can get passed in both the Senate and the House, or risk a costly delay during an election year. Both political parties have no choice but to work together in extending aid for debt relief, eviction moratoriums, mortgage assistance, relief for renters and unemployment benefits millions of Americans currently depend on.
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