The President had requested $2.5 billion for coronavirus on February 24, and Congress instead sent him a package of $8.3 billion on March 5, which was followed by last week’s bill that tops $100 billion. This third package looks likely to exceed $1 trillion.
On Thursday, the Administration released an emergency package that includes a proposal to spend $500 billion in individual payments to most people to be delivered on April 6 and again on May 18. The total is uncertain, but many have suggested a check of $1000 per person that could be adjusted or phased out by income. They also propose $50 billion to the airline industry, a more general $150 billion for other businesses, and $300 billion in small business loans for companies of 500 employees or less that would allow a business to pay for up to six weeks of payroll.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) was having discussions within his own Senate Republican caucus and the Administration, and on Thursday, March 19, he released his package. That legislation would provide up to $1200 to adults or $2400 per couple and an additional $500 per child. The rebates or payout would begin to phase-out at $75,000 per individual and $150,000 per couple with no payout for someone making $99,000 or a couple making $198,000.
The payouts would be based on the 2018 tax returns.
The Senate package also provides up to $50 billion for passenger air carriers, up to $8 billion for cargo air carriers, and up to $150 billion for other businesses. There are also a series of tax changes, changes in tax payment deadlines, and additional deductions.
The package provides no relief as far as any human services needs, including housing, more nutrition, child care, unemployment compensation, nutrition, health care, and child welfare.
There are a number of concerns on the Democratic side, and a final bill may very well exceed $1 trillion. Some Democrats and many advocacy groups see many other human services that will require dramatic increases in emergency funding. Among those needs are housing advocates seeking billion more for the McKinney-Vento Emergency Solution Grants program, which can target the homeless through outreach and other emergency services. Advocates are also seeking a moratorium on all evictions for housing connected to federal sources such as FHA loans, Housing and Urban Development (HUD) housing programs, and Freddy-Mac affected housing. The child care community is seeking more funds since their future is important but under stress. There may be a higher demand for child care with schools closing, but they are likely to be confronted by the same challenges the schools have faced as far as staying open, safe, and healthy.
House Financial Services Chair, Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), released her plan of 28 points on Wednesday, March 18, 2020, in which she calls for checks totaling $2000 per adult and $1000 per child. In addition, she does propose $5 billion for Emergency Homeless Assistance and $10 billion for the Community Development Block Grant. She also calls for some small business assistance through tax rebates, suspension of commercial rental payments, and other grants. She also proposes several consumer protections on debt collections, suspension of negative credit rating reporting, a stop on evictions, foreclosures, and repossessions.
Other areas of concern and advocacy are the need for another increase in the Medicaid FMAP rate beyond last week’s increase to 6.2 percent, with some advocates for an increase to 10 percent. Last week’s bill added $1 billion for state unemployment systems, but now there will be a need to help states pay for the increased cost of unemployment checks. There are also child welfare and child protection concerns (see the following article).
The tribal community is also seeking at least $20 million in funding for the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) ’s Indian Child Welfare Act Fund and at least $80 million in Child Care Developmental Funds for tribes (DHHS, Administration for Children and Families, Child Care and Development Fund).
These are just a sampling of the efforts, including efforts in support of increased SNAP funding, funds to increase housing and homeless services dramatically, and more significant funding to address a range of challenges for child care.
Two of the fundamental debates will be on how large the individual checks should be and how they are adjusted by family size and income. The other point of contention may be over what restrictions should be placed on companies, especially large ones, on how they use their funds provided by the government.