Coronavirus stimulus: Bipartisan caucus unveils $1.5 trillion proposal, including checks and extra unemployment benefits, in attempt to break gridlock

by Denitsa Tsekova | Yahoo! Money
September 16, 2020

A bipartisan group of House members is introducing a stimulus proposal that aims to break a month-long stalemate in negotiations and distribute $1.5 trillion of aid to the economy before the election.

The middle ground proposal from the group dubbed the “Problem Solvers Caucus” includes provisions like a second round of stimulus checks, an extension of extra unemployment benefits, aid to small businesses and schools, election aid, among others.

Under the plan, $120 billion will be allocated for unemployment assistance, with workers getting an extra $450 a week for eight weeks starting in mid-October. That would be followed by up to $600 a week — not to exceed 100% of a person’s previous wage — through January 2021.

A second round of stimulus checks — a proposal popular among both parties — is also included in the bipartisan plan. Under the proposal, a second wave of payments of up to $1,200 will go to individuals, plus an additional $500 for any dependent.

But the middle-ground proposal may not be enough to push the two parties back to negotiations, one expert said.

“The problem underlying the stalemate isn’t a lack of centrist proposals,” Sarah Binder, a professor of political science at George Washington University and senior fellow at the Brookings Institute, told Yahoo Money. “The dilemma is that both parties have to feel the electoral heat from refusing to go back to the bargaining table.”

‘Pushes the House Democratic leadership to bring another package’
One big wedge between the parties is how much a second stimulus plan should cost.

The plan Democratic plan passed in May — the HEROES Act — was initially worth over $3 trillion, but was later cut down to $2.2 trillion. By contrast, the latest Republican plan — which was rejected in the Senate last week — was worth around $300 billion. That leaves a big gap between the two parties’ proposals, and the new $1.5 trillion bipartisan plan may still be too high for Republicans.

“Senate Republicans, in particular, seem to have little interest in a proposal any larger than their skinny bill,” Binder said. “I’m somewhat skeptical that the Problem Solvers’ proposal can generate enough heat to convince both parties to move off their most recent positions this close to the election.”

The proposal introduced by the bipartisan group of 25 Democrats and 25 Republicans also includes $290 billion for small business aid, $145 billion for schools and child care, $500 billion for state and local aid, and $400 million for election aid, plus the potential for $400 billion more for some provisions depending on hospitalization rates and vaccine progress.

While it may not have much of a chance to pass as-is, the plan may push the Democratic party to come back with a revised package, Binder said.

“It’s certainly possible that the Problem Solvers’ proposal pushes the House Democratic leadership to bring another package of COVID relief to the floor before they recess in October,” she said. “That would allow moderates to campaign on a new package and to blame Republicans and the White House for their continued inaction.”

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