New 'skinny' stimulus bill offers $300/week in enhanced unemployment benefits but no second stimulus check

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) wears a protective face mask as he walks down a hallway of the Hart Senate Office Building during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak on Capitol Hill in Washington, May 12, 2020.
Carlos Barria | Reuters

On Tuesday, Senate Republicans proposed a pared-down stimulus bill with a price tag of significantly under $1 trillion, aimed at easing some of the hardships Americans are facing during the coronavirus pandemic.

Some call it the "skinny" bill because it's more streamlined and less expensive than previous proposals. It includes $300 per week in enhanced unemployment benefits through December, liability protections for businesses, funding for health care and schools, and another round of funding for the Paycheck Protection Program for small businesses, but it does not include another round of stimulus checks or more money for state and local governments.

In a statement, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called it a "targeted proposal, focused on some of the very most urgent health care, education, and economic issues." A vote Thursday failed to garner enough support for the bill, sending lawmakers back to the drawing board.

Congress remains at an impasse

Congress and the White House have largely been stuck since the spring.

In May, the House of Representatives passed the HEROES Act, a $3 trillion bill that extended the $600 per-week benefits and included a second wave of stimulus checks that could have provided as much as $6,000 for some households. The Senate did not act on the proposal. Instead, it unveiled its own $1 trillion proposal in July, the HEALS Act, which included a second round of stimulus checks for $1,200 each but which would have lowered enhanced unemployment to $200 per week.

The bill was not put to a vote, and Republicans and Democrats have been unable to come to a consensus on another stimulus package since. The $600 per week in enhanced unemployment benefits provided for by the CARES Act ran out in July.

How to collect unemployment benefits

Video by David Fang

Stimulus checks cut in an effort to lower costs

McConnell hopes a more conservative effort could corral support from members of his party not comfortable with spending much more than the $3 trillion that has already been allotted since the pandemic began. This skinny bill would end up costing only $300 billion, according to The Wall Street Journal, but keeping the total that low required the elimination of elements like a second round of stimulus checks, since those alone would cost another $300 billion.

The idea of another set of stimulus checks does retain broad bipartisan support. "Nobody wants to give direct payments to American families more than President Donald Trump," Vice President Mike Pence told CNBC. Still, they're looking increasingly less likely.

Over 13 million Americans are on unemployment

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer panned the "skinny" stimulus proposal, saying in a joint statement that "Senate Republicans appear dead set on another bill which doesn't come close to addressing the problems and is headed nowhere."

As of August 2020, 13.6 million people are receiving unemployment benefits and 7.6 million people are working part-time involuntarily. Another 7 million people who are not receiving unemployment benefits are still looking for jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And though qualifying residents of some states may be receiving an extra $300 per week from President Trump's executive order extending enhanced unemployment benefits, it's unclear when that money will run out.

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