Outline Of Another Possible Federal COVID-19 Relief Package

There are many moving parts for the next federal COVID-19 Relief Package. The big sticking points of the next COVID-19 relief package: reasonable COVID-19 liability coverage, state and local government funding, direct payments to middle/low income households, and extension of the $600 weekly unemployment benefit.

COVID-19 Liability Coverage

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has conditioned any further COVID-19 relief package must include reasonable liability protections. Sen. Cornyn (R-TX) is expected to introduce a bill soon that would provide safe harbor provisions for businesses that meet safety guidelines as well as making it easier to force lawsuits into federal courts, and imposing caps on the damages that can be awarded.

PMAA has been reaching out to the House Blue Dog democrats and to the Senate to encourage them to support reasonable COVID-19 liability protection.

The motor fuels, heating fuels and convenience store industries are at the forefront of COVID-19 response efforts and should not have to worry about future lawsuits for providing needed products and services to American consumers.

Please Click Here to urge your lawmakers to support liability protection in a future COVID-19 response bill.

State and Local Funding

State and local governments received around $150 billion through the CARES Act to pay for unbudgeted expenses tied to COVID-19. There is a big push from state and local governments for hundreds of billions more, along with the ability to make up for lost revenue.

Many differences over the size of the package, restrictions on states with pre-existing budget shortfalls, and allocations for smaller towns have yet to be worked out.

States and cities would get another $915 billion in additional funding under the House democratic proposal, the Heroes Act (HR 6800).

Half of the funds would be distributed within 30 days of enactment, based on each state’s share of COVID-19 cases and population size, and the rest would be paid out by May 3, 2021.

Under the bipartisan SMART Act (HR 6954, S. 3752) an additional $500 billion would be allocated.

Funds would be allocated based on each state’s population size, COVID-19 cases as of June 1, and revenue losses in 2020 compared with 2019. A third of state allocations would have to go to counties and municipalities.

Republican leaders are leaning towards more aid, but not for problems that existed before the pandemic.

Direct Payments to Taxpayers

U.S. Treasury Secretary Mnuchin said recently that the Trump Administration is considering whether to send another round of direct payments to taxpayers in a COVID-19 rescue package that could be approved next month.

The Trump administration has privately discussed a $1 trillion measure to stimulate jobs growth.

Unemployment Benefits

Extending unemployment benefits and creating “return-to-work” bonuses are among plans being floated for the next phase of relief legislation. The most controversial part of this discussion revolves around whether to extend the additional $600 weekly payments.

The CARES Act law established the pandemic related unemployment benefit programs.

The House Democrats Heroes Act bill would extend those programs, as well the additional $600 per week payment through Jan. 31, 2021.

McConnell has made it clear that the additional $600 weekly payment is a non-starter. Senate Finance ranking member Ron Wyden (D-OR) has proposed automatically adjusting benefits depending on a state’s unemployment rate.

There are additional proposals for return to work bonuses, employee retention credits, and paycheck guarantees including Senator Rob Portman’s (R-OH) proposal to eliminate the current $600 per week unemployment benefit for furloughed employees and instead give them $450 per week if they returned to work.

Bottom Line

Senate Republicans and the Administration want to determine whether existing relief programs are working before committing to another package, however, it is safe to say that there will likely be another COVID-19 relief package in late July/early August.

Stay tuned.

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