Next stimulus package: HEALS Act benefits go beyond a second payment – CNET

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Proposals under consideration in Washington could provide financial support during the pandemic.


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Another stimulus check of up to $1,200 designed to rev up the economy through spending and to help Americans cover basic needs is all but guaranteed. But the economic stimulus package that the check will be part of isn’t any closer to being finalized by Congress. In fact, there’s far more to the bill than another one-time stimulus payment for those who qualify, and the outcome of the current negotiations could have even further-reaching effects on your situation than another $1,200 cash infusion in 2020.

We’ve pulled out some of the major proposals from the Senate’s HEALS Act and House of Representatives’ Heroes Act, like enhanced unemployment assistance and other suggested benefits that could help you pay rent, buy food, keep your job or find a new one through the ongoing recession.

Here are the major pieces Republicans, Democrats and White House officials are pushing to include in the next stimulus package — and how likely we are to get them. This story is updated often with new information.

Second stimulus check: Designed to spur spending

What it is: A payment sent to qualifying individuals and families, based on annual income, age, number of dependents and other factors. The first stimulus checks authorized under the CARES Act have gone out to over 160 million Americans — either as a check, a prepaid credit card or direct deposit. But not without a hitch and after three months some are still waiting for their stimulus payment.

How it could help you: The payment is not taxable and you can use it however you want to pay for food, housing, clothing and so on. The idea is that spending the checks will help the economy recover faster.

Why we think a second check will pass: The CARES act authorized payments of up to $1,200 per eligible adult and so does the HEALS Act. The House of Representatives’ HEROES Act, meanwhile, called for $1,200 stimulus checks, but for more people. The White House also supports another round of checks, which makes this a likely part of the final bill.

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The HEALS Act proposes to give eligible Americans the same size stimulus check as was issued in March.


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More unemployment benefits for Americans out of work

What it is: An additional weekly check for people who applied for unemployment for the first time or were already collecting unemployment. The program initially granted by the CARES Act provided an extra $600 per week and expired on Saturday, but lawmakers are looking into another unemployment boost now.

How it could help you: An extra weekly payment on top of the ordinary unemployment benefit gives individuals and families a leg up and cutting it off or reducing it could be devastating for both unemployed workers and the economy.

Why we think it could happen: Republicans support the extension, though at a reduced rate, saying $600 a week is too generous. “We have learned what we knew at the time,” Sen. Chuck Grassley said Monday, “That when you pay people more not to work than they would get working, what do you expect? People will not work. And what this country needs is more workers.”

Democrats support an extension at the current $600 rate and balk at the Senate proposal, which would extend benefits based on 70% to 75% of lost wages, starting at $200 a week and over time increasing to $500 a week, with state assistance. With no agreement on a larger second package close and benefits expiring, the two sides may decide on a short-term extenion of the benefits while they hammer out the details of the bill.

Payroll Protection Program to help businesses keep people employed

What it is: Intended to help you retain your job, the Paycheck Protection Program provides forgivable loans to small businesses as an incentive to keep employees on the payroll. 

How it could help you: The program is designed to fund workers employed who would otherwise have lost their jobs during the pandemic. The program got off to a rocky start and it’s not clear the PPP met the goals Congress set for it. 

“Overall PPP hasn’t preserved many paychecks,” wrote Joshua Gotbaum, a guest scholar of economic studies at the Brookings Institution. “A careful study found that PPP-eligible small businesses laid people off just as quickly as other businesses,” he said.

Why we think it could get extended: The Republican proposal will target the hardest-hit small businesses, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine said during the rollout of the bill, including those with revenue losses of 50% or more over last year.

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A tax credit would help with your pay.


Angela Lang/CNET

Employee retention tax credit would help pay workers

What it is: Under the program, an employer can receive refundable tax credits for wages paid to an employee during the pandemic. The employer can then use the credits to subtract from — and even receive a refund over — taxes they owe.

How it could help you: Again, it’s not a direct payment to you, but the program encourages businesses to keep workers on the payroll.

Why we think it could happen: Grassley said the HEALS Act includes further tax relief for business who for hire and rehire workers and the Democrat-backed HEROES Act also builds on the tax credits that were part of the initial CARES Act. And there’s additional bipartisan support besides.


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Stimulus Standoff on Capitol Hill

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Return-to-work payment of up to $450 each week

What it is: A temporary weekly bonus for unemployed workers who secure a new job or are rehired, on top of their wages. As proposed by Sen. Rob Portman, a Republican from Ohio, the bonus would be $450 a week.

How it could help you: Under Portman’s plan, the weekly bonus would go to laid-off workers who return to work.

Why we think it may not happen: The White House in May expressed interest in the bonus and Portman continues to support the idea, but it’s not part of the proposal McConnell and the other Senate presented on Monday.

Rental assistance to help keep people in their homes

What it is: This plan would help renters pay rent and assist landlords with expenses with less rent money coming in, especially as the US faces a potential “tsunami of evictions.”

How it could help you: The rental assistance program would temporarily help you pay rent if you qualify, put a hold on evictions for a year and help cover costs of rental property owners because of rental payment shortfalls. The current protections have lapsed.

Why we think it could happen: House Democrats included an eviction moratorium in its proposed HEROES Act. It wasn’t part of the Senate proposal, but President Donald Trump this week said eviction protections would part of the package.

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Payroll tax cuts may not make the cut in the next coronavirus relief bill, currently known as the CARES Act 2.


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Payroll tax cut to give you more take-home pay

What it is: Trump has for months pushed the idea of including temporary payroll tax cuts in the next stimulus package. The proposal could include cutting both the employer and employee share of payroll taxes.

How it could help you: If you have a job, a payroll tax cut would let you keep more of your earnings each check. The plan would not help those who are unemployed and don’t receive a paycheck. As of July 4, the nearly 32 million people who were claiming unemployment insurance would not benefit.

Why we don’t think it’ll happen: Neither the HEROES Act nor the current Senate plan includes a payroll tax cut. Even Trump seems to have given up on the plan.

Until we know for sure what the finalized stimulus bill will bring, there are some resources to help you through the financial crisis, including coronavirus hardship loans and unemployment insurancewhat you can do if you’ve lost your jobwhat to know about evictions and late car payments; how to take control of your budget; and if you could receive two refund checks from the IRS.