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$200/week unemployment benefits, a $1,200 second stimulus check: What's in the GOP bill

Proposals in the GOP's $1 trillion HEALS Act include unemployment benefits of $200 per week and a second stimulus check worth up to $1,200.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).
Joshua Roberts | Reuters

Republican lawmakers have unveiled parts of their proposed relief package to help Americans through the continuous hardships of the coronavirus pandemic.

The roughly $1 trillion HEALS Act includes a second stimulus check of up to $1,200, as well as extended — but reduced — federal unemployment benefits, and a new round of small business loans. The bill also includes five-year liability insurance for businesses (shielding them from some lawsuits related to Covid-19), $16 billion to help states with Covid-19 testing, and $105 billion to help schools reopen in the fall.

Republicans will need to reach an agreement with Democrats before another stimulus package is voted on and signed into law. Democrats passed their own coronavirus relief bill back in May — a $3.5 trillion effort known as the HEROES Act, which also included another round of stimulus checks — but the Republican-controlled Senate didn't act on the proposal. 

The new stimulus proposal comes at a crucial time for Americans. In June, the unemployment rate was at 11%, and more than 30 million Americans are now receiving unemployment benefits, according to the Labor Department. CARES Act provisions including enhanced unemployment benefits of $600 per week and its nationwide ban on evictions have also just expired.

Here are some of the provisions in the GOP's bill and how they compare to what economists expected.

Unemployment insurance will be $200/week to start and then shift to 70% wage replacement

First, if the bill passes, federal unemployment benefits will drop from $600 per week to $200 per week. Then, starting in October, the enhanced unemployment insurance would shift from the same amount given to everyone to a percentage of your former salary: Specifically, up to 70% of a worker's previous wage, including a maximum of $500 per week from the federal government plus regular state unemployment benefits.

The cut isn't a surprise: Republicans have contended people who receive more money on unemployment than they otherwise would on the job have an incentive not to work, though economists have refuted this claim

"We're not gonna continue [unemployment insurance] in its current form because we're not gonna pay people more money to stay at home than work," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told CNBC on Friday. Instead, Mnuchin said, "We want to make sure that the people that are out there that can't find jobs do get a reasonable wage replacement, so [unemployment insurance] will be based on approximately 70% wage replacement."

Republicans had considered lowering the benefits to just $100 per week, sources told CNBC.

We're not gonna continue [unemployment insurance] in its current form because we're not gonna pay people more money to stay at home than work.
Steven Mnuchin
Treasury Secretary

A second stimulus check of $1,200 for those who qualify

The HEALS Act would send another round of checks worth up to $1,200 to individuals and up to $2,400 to couples setting the same qualifications as the the CARES Act did in March. That is, individuals who earn up to $75,000 a year would be eligible for the full $1,200, and those who earn more than $75,000 but less than $99,000 would be eligible for a reduced payment.

Under the proposal, families can receive an additional $500 per dependent of any age. The first round of checks under the CARES Act had limited eligibility to those younger than age 17, cutting out college students and adult dependents. 

The HEALS Act does not include the stricter income limits on stimulus check recipients that the GOP had previously discussed. Last week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he envisioned stimulus checks focused on "those making $40,000 a year and less in the hospitality industry."

To get a sense of how much you could receive under the proposal, use our stimulus check calculator below.

An extended Payment Protection Program

Republicans had said that they want to continue the Payment Protection Program (PPP), which offers small businesses loans to cover their payroll, with the possibility of those loans being forgiven in the future. 

The HEALS Act reflects those priorities and would set aside $190 billion for PPP loans. Businesses eligible to apply would need to have fewer than 300 employees and would need to have seen their revenue fall by more than 50%. The bill would set aside another $100 billion for loans for seasonal businesses in low-income areas that meet specific criteria that have also seen a more than 50% loss in revenue.

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