With less than 60 days before the election, the latest COVID-19 relief bill introduced in the U.S. Senate a week ago indicates there’s still a long way to go before Republicans and Democrats come to a consensus. The “Delivering Immediate Relief to America’s Families, Schools and Small Businesses Act” (“Act”) has been described as a “skinny COVID bill”. While it has a $500 billion price tag, it does not include a number of provisions Democrats and many Republicans want, including direct rebate checks for individuals and financial assistance for states and cities.
On September 10, it failed to receive the 60 votes needed to advance in the Senate, which indicates we are likely going to have to wait till after the November 3 elections before any additional relief is enacted into law.
The Act had number of provisions to help individuals and small businesses, including:
- $300 in additional weekly unemployment benefits through December 27th;
- Additional access to the remaining funds in the Paycheck Protection Program, including a second chance for small businesses to apply for funding providing their losses exceed 35% over the same quarter in 2019; inclusion of 501(c)(6) organizations as eligible recipients; and simplified loan forgiveness for PPP loans of under $150,000; and
- Additional funds for testing, contact tracing, and vaccine development.
If these provisions sound familiar, it’s because many of them were included in prior legislation introduced by Senate Republicans, known as the HEALS Act, which we discussed here. Unfortunately, the difference between both Republican bills and legislation passed by the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives (the HEROES Act) have proven daunting, so far. Democrats are pushing for additional rebate checks for individuals, greater unemployment benefits, greater assistance for states and cities, and even greater access to PPP (including 501(c)(7) private organizations). The vote in the Senate on September 11 saw 52 of the 53-member GOP caucus support the Act. All Democrats opposed, meaning that the 60 votes for passage were not available.
The gulf between Democrats and Republicans on COVID-19 aid does not look like it can be bridged, at least before November 3. GCSAA’s Government Affairs team however will not let up on its efforts to secure additional relief for our members.