America’s next stimulus package: The 6 biggest things that are holding up a deal – CNET


What’s holding up the stimulus bill? We’ll tell you.

Sarah Tew/CNET

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin can’t agree on the content of a stimulus bill they’ve been working on together for over a month. The two lead negotiators traded letters on Wednesday, trying to shift blame of stalled financial rescue negotiations that include a second round of stimulus checks to the other party.

“More than a week ago, you publicly announced that the White House would accept Democrats’ testing, tracing, and treatment language with only a ‘light touch,'” Pelosi, the Democratic representative, wrote about talks with Mnuchin. “We still have not received a final answer on new compromise language….” In response, Mnuchin, who speaks for the White House administration, wrote, “Your ALL OR NOTHING approach is hurting hard-working Americans who need help NOW.”

Since the middle of May, when the House first passed the $3 trillion Heroes Act, Congress has made half a dozen or so attempts to pass additional assistance, from the Senate’s HEALS Act in July to a $500 billion bill in the middle of October that failed to advance. These lopsided efforts were written and voted upon along partisan lines, never with the support of the other side.

So what’s been keeping Pelosi and Mnuchin from agreeing on additional financial assistance for an American economy that according to the Chair of the Federal Reserve Jerome Powell has “still a long way to go” to fully recover? Here are the main issues standing in the way of a deal. We regularly update this story with new information.

What keeps Republicans and Democrats from agreeing on another rescue bill?

Over the past few weeks, the two sides have hinted at roadblocks that are keeping them from reaching an agreement and on Wednesday went public with their disagreements. Here’s what we know.

State and local funding: On Oct. 20, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi described state and local funding as one of the two bookends that are keeping the two sides from a deal. Pelosi said the funding would go to paying the salaries for first responders, health workers and teachers. The Trump administration has balked at the funding, calling it a bailout of Democrat-run cities, and Mnuchin wrote that the administration has “provided reasonable compromise positions.”

Liability protection from COVID-19-related illness and more: The other bookend, according to Pelosi, is liability protections for businesses and schools. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has repeatedly said any new stimulus bill must include liability protections that would limit people from suing businesses (for example, employers) if they acquired the coronavirus, except for instances of gross negligence.

“I want to make sure that we protect the people we’ve already sent assistance to who are going to be set up for an avalanche of lawsuits if we don’t act,” McConnell said in April. Pelosi has resisted these protections, saying “I think that there is a balance that can be struck, but it isn’t the McConnell language.” Mnuchin said his side made concessions. Pelosi disagrees.

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Testing, tracing and treatment: Pelosi frequently calls funding for coronavirus testing, contact tracing and isolation measures and support hospitals and health care providers as necessary to “crush the virus.” Pelosi said the two sides are still apart here, and Politico reported that the White House has not responded with new language. Mnuchin in his note, however, says the two sides have reached agreement on testing, saying he did respond to tracing as well. No agreement has been struck.

School and child care funding: Pelosi in her note listed school and child care funding as outstanding issues. Mnuchin said he’s countered with “reasonable” positions.

Tax Credits for Working Families: Pelosi said she is waiting for an answer on whether the White House will approve funding to strengthen the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit.

Unemployment Insurance: Again, Pelosi said she has not received a response on unemployment benefits. Mnuchin, however, said Pelosi has “refused to compromise on extended unemployment benefits.

What is in the proposed bill under negotiation?

When the $1.8 trillion White House offer first came through on Oct. 9, we glimpsed the starting point of what the bill could contain. Since then, bits and pieces of information have trickled out, giving us a rough sketch of the bill’s funding. 

It’s estimated that the package could now be worth $1.9 trillion or even more. The CARES Act from March cost $2 trillion and the House of Representatives’ revised Heroes Act came in at $2.2 trillion. Here’s what we know based on early details from The Washington Post and what we’ve heard since.

Another stimulus payment: Stimulus checks of up to $1,200 for eligible adults and $1,000 for qualifying child dependents (the CARES Act set dependent payments at $500). Here’s how you can calculate your total sum if this change sticks. 

Unemployment benefits: The proposal originally set enhanced unemployment benefits at $400 a week. That’s down from the $600 included in the CARES Act, but up from the $300 that the president authorized this summer through executive action. The final figure remains a sticking point in negotiations.

Details we don’t know about the next economic stimulus bill

There is much the two sides have not revealed about the current plan, either in specific details or cost. Among the areas that two sides have have gone into detail include:

For more information, here’s what you need to know about coronavirus hardship loans and unemployment insurance, and what you can do if you’ve lost your job.

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