What Should a 'Phase 4' Coronavirus Relief Bill Include? Tell Congress Today
Should Congress pass a ‘phase 4’ coronavirus relief bill? If so, what should be in it?
by Causes | 3.31.20
What’s the story?
- President Donald Trump signed the $2.2 trillion “phase 3” coronavirus relief package, known as the CARES Act, into law on Friday. While the provisions of the largest spending package in American history are being implemented, there is already growing discussion around a “phase 4” package to provide further relief for Americans during the pandemic.
What could a “phase 4” relief bill include?
- Trump tweeted on Tuesday that the U.S. should take advantage of near-zero interest rates to pass an infrastructure package that’s “VERY BIG & BOLD, Two Trillion Dollars” and “focused solely on jobs and rebuilding the once great infrastructure of our Country!”
- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) indicated in an interview that she too would like to see a bipartisan infrastructure package included in a “phase 4” bill, in addition to more funding for direct cash payments to Americans, aid to state & local governments, hospitals, nursing homes, and worker protections.
- Pelosi also told The New York Times that the “phase 4” coronavirus relief bill should include a rollback of the limit on the state & local tax deduction (SALT), which was capped at $10,000 in annual SALT deductions per household by the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act. Pelosi suggested the cap could be lifted retroactively for 2018 & 2019, although it would be short of a full SALT rollback, which the Joint Committee on Taxation estimated would cost $77 billion for 2019 alone ($40 billion for Americans earning over $1 million per year & most of the rest would go to households earning over $200,000).
- Congressional Republicans have expressed a preference to wait and see the impact of the “phase 3” bill before moving on to “phase 4” legislation. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said in an interview with radio host Hugh Hewitt that, “I think we need to wait a few days here, a few weeks, and see how things are working out.” He added that, “I’m not going to let this be an opportunity for the Democrats to achieve unrelated policy items that they would not otherwise be able to pass.”
When could Congress act on a “phase 4” bill?
- At the moment, the House & Senate are adjourned (aside from periodic pro forma sessions) with lawmakers back in their home districts & states.
- Both chambers have set April 20th as a tentative date to return to the Capitol.
- However, congressional leadership have indicated that the timeline could either be advanced or pushed back depending on the status of bipartisan negotiations & the threat posed by the coronavirus outbreak to traveling lawmakers & staffers.
- Given the uncertainty about the contents of a “phase 4” and the early stage negotiations are in, it may be late April or May before Congress moves on the package.
What were phases 1, 2, and 3?
- “Phase 1” was the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2020 (H.R 6074), which provided $8.3 billion to fund acquisition of medical supplies and develop treatments and vaccines. It passed the House on a 415-2 vote, the Senate on a 96-1 vote, and was signed into law on March 6, 2020.
- “Phase 2” was the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R. 6201), which ensured the availability of free coronavirus testing, in addition to providing for paid leave under certain circumstances, and expanding food aid & unemployment insurance benefits during the outbreak. It passed the House on a 363-40 vote, the Senate on a 90-8 vote, and was signed into law on March 18, 2020.
- “Phase 3” was the Coronavirus, Aid, Recovery, and Economic Security (CARES) Act (H.R. 748), which provided an estimated $2.2 trillion in funding for a variety of initiatives aimed at blunting the economic impact of the pandemic & bolstering the healthcare response to it. It includes $1200 “recovery rebate” checks for individuals (doubled for married couples) that phase-out for wealthier Americans, plus $500 per child; enhanced unemployment benefits; $350 billion in forgivable loans for small businesses; $500 billion in interest-bearing financial aid for larger, financially distressed corporations; and about $340 billion in financial help for hospitals & healthcare providers. The CARES Act, which passed the Senate 96-0 & the House on a voice vote before it was signed into law March 27, 2020, is the most expensive appropriations package ever enacted.
— Eric Revell
(Photo Credit: iStock.com / Sono Creative)
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