Senate Republicans unveiled the Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection, and Schools (HEALS) Act – a roughly $1 trillion package intended to provide additional coronavirus relief, support the federal government’s coronavirus response, help businesses and schools reopen safely, and stimulate the economy. The package is a compilation of individual bills authored by Republican Committee leaders.
The HEALS Act appears to be a marker bill that stakes out Republicans’ starting position in negotiations with Democrats. Earlier today, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) called on congressional Republican leaders and White House officials to negotiate what will likely be the last coronavirus relief package before the November elections. Speaker Pelosi, along with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), are meeting with White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin this evening. Democrats are expected to push for provisions passed by the House in the Heroes Act (H.R. 6800).
Snapshot – The HEALS Act package includes:
- Senate Finance Package – The Senate Finance Committee’s American Workers, Families, and Employers Assistance Act (release; text; section-by-section) provides for enhanced unemployment insurance of $200 per week through September, an additional round of direct payments to individuals (up to $1,200), employer tax relief, state and local government revenue assistance, and health care provisions to support patients, nursing home residents, and hospitals.
- Senate HELP Package – The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) released the Safely Back to Work and Back to School Act (release; section-by-section), which would allow federal student loan borrowers with no income to continue to defer payments and offer additional flexibilities in repayment plans (one-pager); authorize one-time appropriations for states to identify and support scholarship granting organizations in providing “educational freedom scholarships,” including for private school tuition and home schooling expenses, when public schools choose not to reopen (one-pager); and support and expand access to child care (one-pager). These are in addition to health care provisions addressing the federal stockpile, diagnostic testing, telehealth, and disease surveillance, which are outlined in more detail below.
- Liability Protections – The SAFE TO WORK Act shields individuals, businesses, and health care providers from litigation related to coronavirus exposure, as long as they take reasonable steps to comply with government-issued public health standards and guidance (fact sheet).
- Buy American – The Restoring Critical Supply Chains and Intellectual Property Act (fact sheet) would require that certain critical medical supplies purchased by HHS for the Strategic National Stockpile be derived from items manufactured domestically.
- Paycheck Protection Program – Continuing Small Business Recovery and Paycheck Protection Program Act provides $190 billion for additional loans to small businesses, redefines eligibility from 500 employees to 300 employees, and makes other program changes (fact sheet).
- Appropriations – The Additional Emergency Appropriations for Coronavirus Health Response and Agency Operations Act (release; text; summary) provides an additional $306 billion in discretionary appropriations for government agencies, including $118.4 billion for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
A summary of the pertinent health-related provisions across the various bills is attached.