With the U.S. economy stuck in a recession and the COVID-19 outbreak raging, Americans are desperate for added relief, and lawmakers have been working to make that happen. Earlier in the week, Republicans shared their proposal -- known as the HEALS Act -- and it was met with mixed reviews.
Some of the most notable provisions of the HEALS Act include:
- A second round of direct stimulus payments worth up to $1,200 per adult plus $500 per dependent
- Boosted unemployment benefits of $200 per week
- A second round of PPP loans for hard-hit businesses
- Funding for schools, largely to support in-person learning
Meanwhile, Treasury Secretary Mnuchin has said he wants to finalize legislation for a second relief package by July 31, and lawmakers will no doubt be pushed to move quickly to come to an agreement. Here's why time really is of the essence when it comes to moving a second stimulus deal forward.
1. Boosted unemployment has already run out
March's CARES Act allowed for a $600 weekly boost to unemployment benefits that's kept millions of jobless workers afloat over the past few months. But that $600 boost is now gone, and if lawmakers don't come to an agreement soon, those who are out of work could go weeks without any extra money in their unemployment benefits. That could, in turn, lead to heavy debt, rent delinquencies, and other unsavory economic consequences.
2. The jobless rate could climb in the coming weeks
COVID-19 cases surged in July, and as a result, many states imposed added restrictions in an effort to curb the spread. With the outbreak continuing to rage on in much of the country and health experts calling for lockdowns, we could see more businesses shuttered in the course of August if cases continue to climb. That could, in turn, lead to even higher levels of unemployment, and in the absence of an agreed-upon boost, the results could be catastrophic.
3. Americans are desperate for more stimulus cash
The first round of stimulus payments that went out under the CARES Act hit Americans' bank accounts pretty quickly, and now, the IRS has an even tighter system in place for distributing those funds. But until a second relief package is passed, the IRS can't act, and right now, there are millions of households that need that money yesterday to pay for basics and avoid falling behind on bills.
Also, eligibility for stimulus cash could change now that more Americans have submitted their 2019 tax returns (those taxes weren't due by the time the first round of stimulus money went out). Some people who didn't receive an initial stimulus check because their 2018 income rendered them ineligible may be itching to get their hands on the money they know they now qualify for, and it's better for the economy, on the whole, to not make them wait.
Will the HEALS Act pass?
Certain aspects of the HEALS Act are less controversial than others. Democratic lawmakers, for example, are likely pleased to see a second stimulus payment included in the Republican proposal, since their stalled HEROES Act featured a similar provision. But other aspects of the HEALS Act, like boosted unemployment, may still be up for debate.
Either way, let's hope lawmakers are able to come to terms on a relief package quickly -- if not by July 31, then at least soon enough to avert some degree of economic disaster.