Airline industry workers hold signs during a protest in Federal Plaza in Chicago, Illinois, on September 9, 2020. KAMIL KRZACZYNSKI/AFP via Getty Images
It’s been six months since Senate Republicans, House Democrats and the White House have reached a new deal on COVID-19 stimulus.
The delay has left another round of $1,200 direct payments and additional federal unemployment income to millions of Americans hanging in the balance.
Here’s how those negotiations have gone since April.
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Senate Republicans, House Democrats and the White House have not reached a new deal on COVID-19 relief for six months. And as the days go by without any additional federal help, the country’s economic health remains uncertain.
Congress speedily passed legislation worth a record-breaking $3 trillion in the spring to help struggling Americans at the onset of the coronavirus outbreak, though that same dealmaking urgency hasn’t been seen since.
Hundreds of thousands of Americans are still facing layoffs and tens of millions are inching closer to eviction. The unemployment rate, currently at 7.9% — an estimated 12 million people — is more than double its level before the pandemic. Republicans and Democrats have not agreed upon an extension to extra $600 in weekly unemployment income that expired at the end of July, nor have they passed another round of $1,200 direct payments.
The hold-up on stimulus has also left state and local governments grappling with tight budgets, with one study showing a projected 2020 revenue loss over $150 billion. Small businesses, as well as major companies, are suffering from financial wounds. After federal aid dried up this month for big airlines, United Airlines and American Airlines furloughed roughly 32,000 employees. Industries affected by the pandemic have lobbied for more relief for weeks, to no avail, while economists warn of an unsteady recovery without more government support.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and chief White House negotiator Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin have escalated talks for a deal in recent days. Yet President Donald Trump’s sudden demands for Senate Republicans to come to the negotiating table have been ignored, as many refuse to approve another large spending package and are focused on confirming a new justice to the Supreme Court, Judge Amy Coney Barrett. An agreement between the three parties continues to hang in the balance.
Here’s a timeline of how the negotiations have gone.
April 24: Trump signed the last relief bill. The legislation, dubbed the “Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act,” authorized an additional $484 billion to replenish programs approved in March 27’s CARES Act.
May 15: The House passed its new coronavirus bill worth over $3 trillion. Known as the HEROES Act, the bill was unveiled on the House floor three days earlier, and would have provided another round of $1,200 checks, $1 trillion for state and local governments, offer hazard pay for employees, among other provisions that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called “an 1,800-page seasonal catalog of left-wing oddities.” The top Republican also said the bill was “dead on arrival” after reaching the Senate.
May 29: McConnell says another bill will come “in the next month or so.” The Senate majority leader shut down the idea of new relief passing anytime soon during a press briefing in his home state of Kentucky. “We need to push the pause button here and think about the next step,” he said, raising concerns about federal debt levels; but many economists have recommended more government spending is necessary in a national emergency. “We need a pause? Tell that to the virus,” Pelosi told reporters at the time.
July 27: The Senate introduces a coronavirus relief bill worth $1 trillion. The bill, called the HEALS Act, would have provided aid for small businesses and schools for reopening, reduced extra federal unemployment weekly income from $600 to $200, and sent another $1,200 check to Americans. The legislation has gone nowhere.
July 31: The $600 weekly federal unemployment compensation formally expired. The lapse in additional money has left millions of Americans and low-income households more prone to missing credit card and rent payments.
August 8: Trump signed a series of executive orders aimed at coronavirus relief, including a $400 federal boost to state unemployment insurance through December 6. Experts said the program likely won’t be able to be implemented for months. On August 12, Trump cut the benefit to $300.
September 10: The Senate failed to advance a $500 billion bill. The slimmed-down coronavirus plan fell short of the 60 votes needed to move forward. Every Democrat voted against it, as well as Republican Senator Rand Paul. The bill left out $1,200 direct payments to Americans.
October 1: The House passed an updated $2.2 trillion bill. The revised legislation still contained stimulus checks and a revival of the $600 in extra federal unemployment income. It was rejected by Republicans in the Senate.
October 6: Trump, in a Twitter thread, told his team to end stimulus negotiations. Hours later, he reversed course, and demanded Congress approve new relief for stimulus checks and small businesses.
October 9: McConnell said new relief is “unlikely in the next three weeks.” The Republican leader again hit the pause button on renewed talks, blaming the election and partisan hostility. “We do need another rescue package,” he said. “But the proximity to the election and the differences of opinion about what is needed at this particular juncture are pretty vast.”
October 10: Trump made a $1.8 trillion counter to the House bill. The offer included $1,200 direct payments, $400 weekly federal unemployment benefits, and additional aid to states. House Democrats led by Pelosi and Senate Republicans rejected the plan, with the former deeming the price tag too low and the latter dismissing it as too high.
October 12: Trump amped up pressure on Senate Republicans to negotiate. In a tweet, following the first day of his Supreme Court nominee Barrett’s confirmation hearings, the president called on the GOP to “be strongly focused on completing a wonderful stimulus package for the American People!”
October 13: Trump continued the push for stimulus, McConnell offered “skinny” legislation idea. Trump told Congress to go “big or go home” on stimulus and McConnell responded with neither. Instead, he signaled to hold a vote on a slim, “targeted relief” bill, aimed at small businesses. The plan is a nonstarter for Pelosi, who has repeatedly stressed backing a comprehensive deal.
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