Senate GOP ‘Skinny’ Virus Plan Funds Education, Unemployment Aid

Senate Republicans are circulating a slimmed-down Covid-19 stimulus package that would provide $300 a week in unemployment benefits and funding for schools, while also changing the terms of funding provided earlier this year to the U.S. Postal Service.

The proposal could be used to as a counteroffer to the $25 billion Postal Service funding bill the House will consider on Saturday.

The “skinny” plan, which has not been formally released by Republicans, doesn’t include the $1,200 checks included in a roughly $1 trillion Republican proposal known as the “HEALS Act.”

The text obtained by Bloomberg, and confirmed by Senate Republican aides, also omits the assistance to state and local governments that Democrats have sought, such as the $1 trillion proposed in the “Heroes Act” (H.R. 6800) passed in May, instead leaving some of the big-ticket debates for later.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told The Courier Journal Tuesday the House bill “could open the opportunity for discussion about something smaller than what the speaker and the Democratic Senate leader were insisting on at the point of impasse.”

Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said that a House Democratic bill on the Postal Service could open discussions on a coronavirus aid plan.

The package could also be attached to a September stopgap spending bill needed to keep the government open after Sept. 30.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Tuesday she would be open to trimming down the House’s $3.5 billion stimulus proposal in order to reach a deal with Republicans and seeking additional items after the November election.

Details of ‘Skinny’ Plan

The Republican’s proposal includes a $300 weekly supplemental unemployment insurance payment for the rest of the year, down from the $600 weekly payment that expired at the end of July. The reduced amount matches the federal benefit under a memorandum that President Donald Trump signed Aug. 8.

Liability protections for businesses and health care providers, a top priority for McConnell, are also included in the bill. The Paycheck Protection Program that provided forgivable loans to small businesses would be revived.

The proposal would also convert into a grant the $10 billion loan authorization provided to the Postal Service under the “CARES Act” stimulus law (Public Law 116-136).

The bill would provide $105 billion in education funds. Two-thirds would go to elementary and secondary school grants, 28% would go to higher education institutions, and 5% would be available to the governor of each state for education purposes.

The bill would also provide $45 billion to the Department of Health and Human Services Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund, including:

  • $20 billion for the manufacturing, production, and purchase of vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics;
  • $6 billion to prepare for, distribute, administer, and track coronavirus vaccines; and
  • $16 billion that would go almost entirely to states, localities, health service providers, and other groups for testing, contact tracing, and surveillance.

With assistance from Jack Fitzpatrick

To contact the reporters on this story: Emily Wilkins in Washington at ewilkins@bgov.com; Erik Wasson (Bloomberg News)

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Loren Duggan at lduggan@bgov.com; Michaela Ross at mross@bgov.com

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