The coronavirus pandemic is not just a global health crisis but an economic calamity as well. Travel has been severely restricted. Thousands of restaurants, bars and other small businesses across the country have been ordered to close. Workers face mass layoffs, with little end in sight.
To stem the economic fallout, Congress has approved two emergency packages. A third, much larger, measure is being negotiated. The major sticking point appears to be over a Republican proposal to help distressed industries hammered by the crisis. Democrats want to ensure companies use bailout money to keep workers on the payroll rather than for boosting executive compensation and increasing shareholder return. Democrats and Republicans are also wrangling over how much money should go to hospitals and health providers to help them deal with the crisis. Here's where things stand:
What has happened:
Feb. 24: The Trump administration proposes $2.5 billion to fight the coronavirus. The proposal includes money taken from existing programs, including funding to combat the Ebola crisis in 2015. Congress rejects that as far too small.
March 4: Congress passes $8.3 billion which includes:
Roughly $500 million to allow Medicare providers to administer telehealth services to assist elderly patients unable to leave their homes.
$2.2 billion for federal, state, and local public health agencies to prevent, prepare for and respond to the coronavirus.
$1 billion in loan subsidies to be made available to help small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, small aquaculture producers, and nonprofit organizations.
More than $3 billion for research and development of vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics to prevent or treat the effects of coronavirus
March 18: Congress passes Families First Coronavirus Response Act which is designed to cover:
Full cost of Covid-19 testing for all Americans, including those uninsured.
Two weeks of paid sick leave for workers at companies with 500 or fewer employees, or about 87 million Americans combined.
More than $1 billion to maintain federal nutrition assistance, such as subsidized lunches for low-income children, food banks, and meals for eligible seniors.
$1 billion to help states process and cover unemployment insurance claims.
What's happening now:
Congressional leaders are negotiating a third stimulus package that could reach $2 trillion and include relief for major industries such as airlines, small businesses that have seen revenues dwindle or disappear, and workers facing layoffs and loss of health coverage.
GOP leadership proposal for next stimulus:
Direct payments of up to $1,200 for most individuals and $2,400 for most married couples filing jointly with an extra $500 for each child. Benefit reduced for higher earners.
Waives penalties for early withdrawal from qualified retirement accounts for coronavirus-related purposes of up to $100,000.
Allows deferral of student loan payments and allows students who were forced to drop out of school due to coronavirus to keep their Pell grants.
Increases Medicare payments to hospitals treating a patient admitted with coronavirus.
Provides small businesses access to private bank loans equal to four months of expenses (payroll, rent, utilities, etc.) that would be covered by the federal government if they stayed open, maintained their workforce and paid their bills.
Provides a financial lifeline of several hundred billion dollars to industries hardest hit by crisis. Initial proposals called for help for passenger airlines (up to $50 billion), air cargo lines (up to $8 billion) and "other major industries" (up to $150 billion) severely impacted by government health restrictions to combat coronavirus. Companies receiving assistance would be barred from raising the pay of certain executives.
Provides tax relief to businesses by deferring tax payments, increasing deductibility for interest expenses and allowing immediate expensing of qualified property improvements, especially for the hospitality industry.
Democratic leaders' proposal:
Direct payments of $1,500 per individual, up to $7,500 for a family of five, regardless of employment status or income.
Requires President Donald Trump invoke the Defense Production Act that can be used to order private companies to manufacture respirators, masks and other needed equipment.
Provides more than $500 billion in grants and interest-free loans, some with forgivable components, to help small businesses.
Creates a $60 billion fund to help schools and universities keep operating with about $50 billion for K-12 and nearly $10 billion for higher education. The legislation also helps 44 million borrowers with their student debt burden.
Ensures states can carry out this year's election with $4 billion in grant funding for states. The money would help states meet a new national requirement that there be at least 15 days of early voting, "no-excuse" absentee vote-by-mail, and mailing a ballot to all registered voters in an emergency.
Establishes restrictions on money provided large industry to make sure money is targeted on retaining workers and not used for stock buybacks, boosting dividend increases or increasing executive compensation.
Eliminates cost-sharing for coronavirus treatments and vaccines for all patients, including the uninsured.
What could happen:
Items potentially on table that have yet to generate broad support:
On Democratic side:
Minimum wage hike to $15
Environmental measures designed to sharply reduce carbon footprint that contributes to climate change.
Cancel all student debt
Universal health care
Larger individual payments
Changes to targeted lending/bailouts
Democrats oppose loans to large corporations, especially those that bought back lots of stock
Aid for Americans to prevent utility shut-offs.
On Republicans side:
Bailouts of cruise lines, hospitality industry and others disproportionately affected by economic shutdown.
Payroll tax holiday
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Congress stimulus packages for Coronavirus, in graphics