The Covid-19 pandemic and lockdowns have landed a huge blow to the economy. The passage of the CARES Act extended and topped up unemployment benefits, a stimulus payment, foreclosure forbearance, and more to help Americans weather some of the financial fallout. But as the crisis drags on, CARES has been inadequate for helping the average American get through the coronavirus economy. Unfortunately, many of the provisions in the CARES Act expired on July 31, leaving many Americans in financial crisis.
In May, House Democrats passed the new HEROES Act, a three trillion dollar relief package. The price tag has given many Republicans and some Democrats pause. Instead, Republicans have proposed the HEALS Act as a compromise. So what’s in the bill? Could you get another stimulus payment or additional unemployment benefits? We’ll explore.
What’s the HEALS Act?
The HEALS Act stands for Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection, and Schools Act. The bill will cost much less than the HEROES Act, with a one trillion price tag instead of three. Both sides of the aisle have begun discussions on the bill as a compromise to the more extensive HEROES Act.
Unfortunately, Americans may be waiting a long time before seeing any benefits from either the HEROES or HEALS Act. Such a significant difference in spending and scope probably means lengthy debates. Congress can’t even agree on the weather.
When could the HEALS Act pass, and Americans get some economic relief?
If we’re being optimistic, the HEALS Act could pass as early as August 7. But if Congress can’t reach a compromise by then, they’ll adjourn for about a month. If that happens, then we might see the bill pass sometime in September. Even if both sides agree to pass the bill, President Trump has to sign it before it becomes law. Here’s what Trump has said about passing another round of stimulus payments:
“I do – I support it, but it has to be done properly,” Trump said. “I support actually larger numbers than the Democrats.”
So Trump supports a bigly stimulus payment. The biggest! That’s good news for many Americans. But if you’re inclined to believe the glass is half empty, there’s a possibility the bill may never pass, at least until after the upcoming election. Instead, the proposed legislation could become a focal point in November.
What’s in the HEALS Act?
The HEALS Act has several key similarities to the proposed HEROES Act. For Americans making less than $75,000 per year, they’ll get another stimulus check of at least $1,200. The HEALS Act includes several key provisions for small businesses, schools, and unemployment benefits.
- $100 billion in funding for education
- Tax deductions for meals
- Federal unemployment benefits lowered to $200 per week from $600
- $190 billion in additional funding for the Paycheck Protection Program
- Several tax incentives for small businesses
- Five-year liability protection from coronavirus-related lawsuits against businesses
- Additional funding for Covid-19 testing
Also, re-hired or newly hired workers will receive a back-to-work bonus of $450 per week with the HEALS Act.
How does the HEALS Act differ from the HEROES Act?
To go from a three trillion-dollar stimulus package down to one trillion dollars, many provisions outlined in the HEROES Act proposal are absent from the HEALS Act. So what’s missing? Quite a bit.
Hazard Pay for Essential Workers
Millions of Americans have continued working throughout the pandemic while others sheltered-in-place. These essential workers haven’t been given extra pay to keep the country running while risking additional exposure to the virus.
In the HEROES Act, $200 billion is earmarked for hazard pay for essential workers. Grocery store workers, hospital employees, police officers, and other essential workers could see a bonus payment of up to $10,000. But this Hazard Pay provision is missing from the HEALS Act.
Additional Federal Funding for States and Cities
Fear surrounding the virus and forced business closures have resulted in massive tax revenue drops for cities and states. The HEROES Act set aside $1 trillion in federal funding to help certain areas make up for this tax dollars loss. The money could potentially be used for things like maintaining state parks and paying local police officers.
There is no direct state and local funding in the HEALS Act. Instead, the HEALS Act proposes flexible spending of $150 billion left over from the Cares Act for states and cities.
Student Loan Forgiveness
The HEROES Act offers student loan forgiveness in the form of a 12-month suspension of payments, and $10,000 of loan forgiveness if borrowers have been walloped economically by the coronavirus crisis. The HEALS Act still provides some relief, although not as robust.
Instead, borrowers can repay loans on a 10-year plan. Or sign up for income-based repayments. Borrowers who demonstrate job loss due to Covid-19 could get their monthly payments lowered to $0.
Assistance with Rent
Roughly 44 million people rent in the US. For homeowners who fall behind on mortgage payments, the foreclosure process can take years. Unfortunately for renters, failing to pay rent can mean being out on the street in just a couple of weeks.
The CARES Act that passed back in March offered eviction protection for renters for 120 days. In the HEROES Act, $100 billion is set aside to aid renters and landlords. The money is meant to reimburse landlords for receiving no rental income during those 120 days.
Initially, the HEALS Act intended to offer extended eviction protection. But recently, the White House and Senate Republicans withdrew their support for this measure. It’s safe to say that the HEALS Act if it passes, won’t include rental assistance.
More Stimulus Payments with the HEALs Act: What Can We Hope for?
It’s difficult to predict which side of the aisle will cave on which measures and get the next round of stimulus payments passed and into Americans’ hands. Unfortunately, many of the assistance measured outlined in the CARES Act are expiring at the time of this writing. And the Congressional cavalry has yet to arrive. For people facing a reduction in unemployment benefits and possible eviction, it’s best not to wait on Congress to offer help when you need it most.
If you’re struggling to make ends meet, please check out our other articles on where you can find financial assistance with rent, groceries, and finding a work-from-home job. We’ll continue to keep you posted on the HEALS Act and other possible stimulus packages from Congress.