By Thursday evening, August 6, 2020, some senators were leaving town as an agreement between the White House and Congressional Democrats bogged down with no clear path forward. A chart of some of the differences between the House of Representatives HEROES Act passed on May 15, and the Senate HEAL Act (Republican description) introduced July 27, can be found in this chart. At this point, it appears most congressional leaders were not even involved in discussions, and it was less clear what would be included in a joint agreement. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has, by public reports, not been a party to these discussions, and in fact, he has indicated that up to 20 Senate Republicans are unwilling to support more relief funding. There have also been suggestions that negotiations could be dropped altogether, and maybe the next option would be a bill that must be passed to at least start the new federal fiscal year on October 1, 20220 (FY 2021).
Much of the public discourse has been around an extension of the $600 weekly unemployment benefit with the Democrats wanting an extension of the benefit through December. The White House has promoted a proposal that would require states to implement a formula that would provide workers with 70 percent of their lost wages. The President has also suggested an executive order that would take unspent CARES Act funding and using it to extend a weekly benefit at a lower level. The legality of that action is in question and even if the President does find the money and legal authority, a memo by the National Association of State Workforce Agencies, indicates that proposals to base benefits on a percentage of the weekly benefits (for example, 50 percent of wages) “would take 8 to 20 weeks or more from the date of Labor Department guidance” to implement.
There are any number of other controversies including a lack of state and local relief in the Senate bill versus the House bill ( see the article on Florida), the need to fund the US Postal service to address mail-in and absentee November ballots issues, other priorities such as increased funding for education, child care and health care funding and what total funding should be set at with Republicans offering $1 trillion and Democrats offering $3.4 trillion in their two respective bills.
With recent unemployment data indicating that there are still 30 million people unemployed and with June data showing that 2.9 million jobs have been permanently eliminated, the coming weeks are sure to be harsh as supplemental unemployment, housing eviction protections, and the small business loan programs start to end.