House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and House Democrats unveiled their phase 4 coronavirus relief package on Tuesday that would provide billions in bailout to cash-strapped states and local governments, expand direct payment eligibility to undocumented immigrants as well as a list of other Democratic priorities.
The House will hold an emergency session on Friday to vote on the massive relief package. It is expected to pass the House along party lines, but will be dead on arrival in the Senate. Republicans dismissed the massive bill before it was unveiled, saying lawmakers should first spend some time reviewing previous stimulus measures already in place.
The 1,815-page Democratic legislation was crafted by Pelosi along with top Democratic committee chairs without any input from Republicans or the Trump administration and comes with a hefty price tag. It is expected to cost more than $3 trillion with the centerpiece focusing on providing over $1 trillion relief for struggling states and local governments to help plug budget holes from coronavirus crisis spending and declining tax revenues.
Dubbed the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act, or HEROES Act, the measure includes $200 billion to fund “hazard pay” for essential workers on the front lines, extend federal unemployment benefits of $600 per week through January 2021, and provide extra funding of $75 billion directed for coronavirus testing and contact tracing.
The bill would also build upon the one-time direct payments established by the CARES Act by pushing a second round of similar direct payments of $1,200 per individual and $1,200 for dependent children and up to $6,000 per household. Under the democrat proposal, dependent children up to the age of 24 would now be eligible for payments and it would also allow undocumented immigrants who file taxes with a Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN) to be eligible to receive a stimulus check.
It also includes a provision that the second direct payments will prevent President Trump from adding his name onto the checks and related payments notices.
Pelosi said Congress had a “momentous opportunity” to meet people’s needs, justifying the bill’s priorities was to “think big” and “not acting is the most expensive course.”
“We must think big for the people now because if we don’t it will cost more in lives and livelihood later,” Pelosi said during the bill unveiling. “Not acting is the most expensive course. We are presenting a plan to do what is necessary to deal with the corona crisis and make sure we can get the country back to work and school safely.”
Democrats also included a slew of liberal priorities left out from previous bills, including $75 billion to help homeowners and renters struggling to pay their mortgages or rent due to lost income, including $100 billion in emergency assistance for low-income renters at risk of eviction, a 15 percent increase to the maximum food stamp benefit, as well as $150 million to help local food banks meet increased demand, $25 billion to aid the U.S. Postal Service and $3.6 billion for a contingency plan to help enable voting by mail for the upcoming November elections.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell described the Democratic bill as a “big laundry list of pet priorities.”
The House bill doesn’t provide any additional funding for the Paycheck Protection Program for small businesses, only extending the program to the end of the year. It also includes some priorities Democrats tried to push before the pandemic such as suspending the cap on state and local tax, or SALT deductions for two years, declare cannabis-related legitimate businesses as an essential service, provide a set emergency benefit to laid off or furloughed workers monthly to cover the cost of internet service, allocate millions more towards arts and humanities organizations and create protections for certain immigrant visa applicants while requiring Homeland Security to remotely administer naturalization oath ceremonies.
In order to get this bill on President Trump’s desk, the House Democrats would need to win over the support of some key Republicans in Congress. However, both the House and Senate GOP leaders said the said the legislation in its current form is too aspirational. McConnell said the bill doesn’t “deal with reality,” while House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy referred to it as a “liberal wishlist” and “waste of taxpayer time.”
If the current version of this bill is passed into law, it would be considered the fifth and the most expensive one in a series of stimulus relief bill to address both the coronavirus pandemic and its economic effects.