The “Health Care Economic Assistance Liability Protection and Schools,” or HEALS Act, contains policies that are tailored to the state of the U.S. economy, which has one foot in the pandemic and one foot in recovery, McConnell said.
“The American people need more help [and] they need it to be comprehensive and they need it to be carefully tailored to this crossroads,” the Kentucky Republican said on the Senate floor Monday.
As previously described by McConnell, the legislation will target three key areas including jobs, health care and children.
New York Democrat Sen. Chuck Schumer called the package of proposals “weak tea” when the country needs “a much stronger brew.”
Here’s a look at the policies included in the Republican-sponsored legislation, which will require bipartisan cooperation to pass before lawmakers are expected to leave for August recess.
Another round of $1,200 checks are included in the HEALS Act, which will include “even more support” for families who care for vulnerable dependents.
The additional $500 for each dependent will be expanded to cover people of any age, some of whom were unintentionally left out in the first round.
The income criteria for the next round of economic impact payments would be the same as stipulated under the CARES Act ($1,200 per adult for those with adjusted gross incomes of up to $75,000. The threshold for married couples is $150,000 – they are eligible for $2,400 and $500 per child).
Sequel to PPP
The HEALS Act will allow small employers that have seen revenue decline by at least 50 percent to receive a second PPP forgivable loan.
Those second loans would be limited to small businesses with 300 or fewer employers.
The sequel would also expand forgivable PPP costs to include expenses needed to protect both employees and customers, and would include the costs of implementing outdoor seating at restaurants.
Finally, it would allow seasonal businesses more flexibility in calculating their loan amounts and simplify the forgiveness process for smaller borrowers.
Currently, business owners can apply for an initial round of funding through Aug. 8.
The Republican plan reduces the additional unemployment insurance benefit from the $600 provided under the CARES Act.
The benefit would be trimmed to $200 per week while states create a plan to provide each unemployed worker with wage replacement equal to 70 percent of their previous pay, up to a state cap, Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley said on Monday.
Liability protections would be included for everyone from doctors and nurses, who will be protected from malpractice suits, to churches, charities, businesses and schools, McConnell noted.
The hope is that the protections will encourage companies to reopen without fear that they will spend years in court.
McConnell described the legal protections as a means to “prevent our historic recovery efforts from simply lining the pockets of trial lawyers.”
The legislation will focus on diagnostics, treatments and vaccines for the virus.
The bill will also protect Medicare recipients from premium spikes.
PPE made in America
McConnell noted on Monday that the virus had caused leaders to reexamine the degree of dependence the U.S. has on China, so it will provide incentives for the domestic production of personal protective equipment.
The bill will include a measure to help evaluate proposals to protect and strengthen the trust funds of programs that Americans count on, like Medicare and Social Security.
A report would need to be delivered to Congress by the Treasury in Jan. 2021, after which “rescue committees” would be set up to create plans to shore up the solvency of the programs.
The bill contains policies to help schools and universities safely reopen, and it allocates more than $100 billion to an education fund.
A number of tax credits would be expanded or added via the HEALS Act, including access to the employment tax credit and the work opportunity tax credit.
Tax credits will be made available to help businesses buy PPE and to implement proper cleaning protocols as a means to safely reopen and serve customers.
Additionally, the legislation would reintroduce the 100 percent deduction for business meals and entertainment.