What's in House Democrats' Coronavirus Relief Bill?
How optimistic are you that Congress will compromise on the “phase 3” bill?
by Countable | 3.23.20
House Democrats have released a “phase 3” coronavirus relief bill of their own as bipartisan negotiations continue in the Senate. While Democratic leadership haven’t indicated when or if they will recall the House from recess for a vote (which typically requires 24 hours of notice), the circulation of the 1,404 page bill at the very least lays down a marker for negotiations going forward.
Here’s a high-level comparison of House Democrats’ $2.5 trillion bill to the Senate bill that was initially introduced by Republicans and has grown to $1.8 trillion through ongoing bipartisan negotiations since last Friday. The comparison is followed by a look at some of the provisions that are only in the House Democrats’ bill.
House & Senate Bill Comparison (Senate provisions italicized.)
Direct Cash Payments to Americans: House Democrats’ bill would provide recovery checks of up to $1,500 per person up to $7,500 for a family of five, without a means-testing phase-out for wealthier Americans. Individuals with a 2020 income over $75,000 or joint filers over $150,000 would be required to “pay back part or all of the assistance” over three years as a zero-interest loan.
The Senate bill would provide recovery checks of up to $1,200 for individuals, with a phase-out that begins at $75,000 and phases out entirely at $99,000 (double those figures for joint filers), plus an additional $500 per child.
Small Business Assistance: House Democrats’ bill would provide $300 billion in guaranteed, forgivable loans to cover short-term payroll costs; $100 billion in grants for small businesses that can demonstrate losses due to the coronavirus outbreak; $184 billion in low-interest economic injury disaster loans for small businesses; and waive loan payments on principal, interest, and fees for six months.
The Senate bill would provide $350 billion in forgivable loans for small businesses that would essentially convert to grants if the loan is used to cover expenses related to payroll, family & medical leave, rent, and debt-related expenses.
Assistance for Corporations: House Democrats’ bill would authorize emergency relief up to $250 billion to corporations through interest-bearing loans & loan guarantees, or the purchase of warrants for preferred or common stock. Corporations receiving federal aid would be prohibited from providing more than $425,000 in total annual compensation or “golden parachutes” to executives until their assistance is repaid.
The Senate bill would authorize emergency relief for corporations up to $500 billion through interest-bearing loans & loan guarantees, or the purchase of warrants for preferred or common stock. Corporations receiving federal aid would be prohibited from increasing executive compensation for two years or providing “golden parachutes”.
Healthcare Funding: Both the House & Senate bills would provide $100 billion to reimburse hospitals for healthcare expenses or lost revenue related to the coronavirus public health emergency.
Relaxed Tax Laws: Both the House & Senate bills would waive the 10% early withdrawal penalty for distributions up to $100,000 from qualified retirement accounts for people to cover coronavirus-related expenses. Those distributions could be repaid at any time over the ensuing three-year period.
Additionally, both the House & Senate bills would allow businesses to carry-back net operating losses from 2018, 2019, or 2020 over five years and could fully offset income, thus allowing companies to reduce their tax burden in prior years and free up cash during the pandemic.
Things in House Democrats’ Bill
Arts & Humanities: House Democrats’ coronavirus relief bill would provide $600 million in grants evenly-divided between the National Endowment for the Arts & Humanities, plus an additional $42.5 million for the Kennedy Center & the Smithsonian Institution.
Elections: House Democrats’ coronavirus relief bill includes $4 billion in grants for states to conduct election audits, implement vote-by-mail, provide same-day voter registration, and to accommodate extended early voting periods. These provisions were included in the For the People Act, which passed the House on a party-line vote in March 2019.
Emissions Oversight for Airlines: House Democrats’ coronavirus relief bill would require airlines receiving assistance to fully offset their carbon emissions starting in 2025, reduce their carbon emissions by 25% by 2035, and 50% by 2050. Airlines & ticket agents would be required to tell prospective purchasers the amount of carbon emissions attributed to their flight.
Federal Employee Collective Bargaining: House Democrats’ coronavirus relief bill would nullify four executive orders that limit federal workers’ collective bargaining power.
Further Restrictions on Corporations Receiving Assistance: House Democrats’ coronavirus relief bill would require companies receiving federal aid to maintain workforce levels, worker pay, and provide 14 days of paid leave throughout the crisis; guarantee a $15 minimum wage for all employees by January 2021. They would be prohibited from engaging in stock buybacks, providing executives bonuses or golden parachutes, or engaging in federal lobbying until all federal aid is repaid.
Companies receiving aid would be permanently required to report about the demographics of the corporate board, political spending, and provide country-by-country tax payments; and maintain a 50:1 ratio of executive to median worker pay.
Housing Assistance: House Democrats’ coronavirus relief bill would authorize $100 billion to help certain non-assisted renters cover rent & utility payments; provide $15.5 billion homeless assistance to state & local governments; prohibit evictions until six months after the end of the coronavirus emergency declaration; establish a $35 billion Housing Assistance Fund to help homeowners with mortgage & utility payments; and prohibit foreclosures & require mortgage forbearance for one year.
Pension Reforms: House Democrats’ coronavirus relief bill includes the Multiemployer Pension Act (aka Butch Lewis Act), which would have the Treasury spend $64 billion over 10 years to prop up roughly 1,200 failing or insolvent private pension plans across the U.S. The standalone version of the bill passed the House on a mostly party-line vote in July 2019. It would also revise funding standards for community newspapers’ retirement plans.
Postal Service Bailout: House Democrats’ coronavirus relief bill would provide $25 billion to offset the U.S. Postal Service’s lost revenue and reset its $15 billion borrowing limit by canceling its $11 billion in outstanding debt to the Treasury.
Stock Buyback Ban: House Democrats’ coronavirus relief bill would temporarily ban stock buybacks for all companies during the duration of the coronavirus crisis.
Student Loan Forgiveness: House Democrats’ coronavirus relief bill would require the Dept. of Education to make payments on behalf of FFEL, Perkins, and direct student loan borrowers each month during the national emergency. Interest due during the national emergency wouldn’t capitalize during the emergency. Each borrower would receive at least $10,000 in total student loan forgiveness, inclusive of the amount covered through the monthly payments.
— Eric Revell
(Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore via Flickr / Creative Commons)
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