Republicans are set to introduce another sorely needed coronavirus relief package that will include another direct stimulus payment of up to $1,200 per person while declining to extend the additional $600 per month unemployment payment for workers who’ve lost their jobs during the pandemic.
“I think workers and Americans understand the concept that you shouldn’t be paid more to stay home than to work,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Sunday.
Of course, paying people to stay home means paying people to minimize the chance that they’ll spread the virus, which sounds like a pretty great investment right about now. Absent the additional benefit they’ve been receiving for months, many people will be faced with some impossible decisions.
The Trump administration’s alternate plan was outlined by the president’s Chief of Staff on Sunday.
“We are going to be prepared on Monday to provide unemployment insurance extension that would be 70 percent of whatever the wages you were [making] prior to being unemployed, that it would reimburse you for up to 70 percent of those wages,” Mark Meadows said. “Hopefully as a way to get people back on their feet.”
Of course, for those making at or near the minimum wage that missing 30 percent could be the difference between making rent or not. And if they’re going to set aid as a percentage, then one has to wonder why the proposal set the level at 100 percent, a figure that seems fair for people who lost their jobs through no fault of their own.
The proposal also includes a direct stimulus payment with the same rules as the one in the CARES Act: $1,200 for those making less than $75,000 and a progressively smaller amount for those making up to $100,000, with those amounts doubled for joint filers.
The additional $500 for each qualifying dependent child under 17 years old would also make a comeback. Mnuchin said that he expects the payments to go out in August, but that’s a pretty big leap considering nothing has been passed into law yet.
The House did pass the HEROES Act, a more robust coronavirus aid package, on May 15. It will likely serve as a starting point for negotiations with Republican leadership, which is likely to face stiff opposition to its own plan from many in its ranks who don’t want any more massive government aid packages.
Congress will enter a month-long recess on August 7, so there should be considerable pressure on lawmakers to pass a compromise piece of legislation by then, particularly if spikes in reported cases continued to pop up in states around the country, delaying their reopening and the economic activity that comes with it.