The White House and Democratic congressional leaders failed to reach an agreement on a new stimulus relief bill Thursday, casting doubt on when or even if another plan to help Americans through a pandemic will happen.
The two sides met for three hours on Thursday night but failed to inch closer to an agreement to help Americans who have been through five months of a pandemic brought on by the COVID-19 virus.
“We’re still a considerable amount apart,” White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said regarding his Thursday night meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
“They didn’t take the virus seriously in the beginning, they’re not taking the consequences of the virus seriously at this time,” Pelosi said. “And that’s why it’s hard to come to terms.”
According to The Washington Post, President Donald Trump called into the meeting several times.
The Thursday meeting marked the ninth time that Meadows, Mnuchin, Pelosi and Schumer have met in the past 11 days.
What has been passed already?
With the failure to reach common ground on issues such as federal unemployment benefits and aid to state and local governments, it is unclear what the next steps may be.
The proposed package would come on top of trillions of dollars in legislation that has already been passed in an attempt to keep the U.S. economy afloat as the pandemic continues.
In early March, Congress passed the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act that provided $7.8 billion in discretionary supplemental funds for vaccine and treatment research, medical supplies, support for state health departments, money for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and for the Small Business Administration’s disaster loan program.
At the end of March, Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The CARES Act, funded several programs, among them money to hospitals and health care providers and a new Paycheck Protection Program aimed at helping businesses stay open and pay employees.
That legislation sent most American adults “stimulus checks” of up to $1,200 per individual, along with $500 per child. Congress also provided up to $500 billion for the Treasury and the Federal Reserve to leverage as loans and set up a $150 billion relief fund to help states, the District of Columbia, territories, and tribes pay for coronavirus response costs.
On April 24, President Donald Trump signed the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act. The law added $310 billion in lending authority and $321.3 billion in appropriations for the Paycheck Protection Program established in the CARES Act. Another $60 billion went for small business disaster loans and emergency advance grants and $75 billion was set up for hospitals and health care providers. Twenty-five billion dollars was set aside for COVID-19 testing.
The House passed a $3.4 trillion bill called the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act in May, while the Senate introduced a series of bills known together as the Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection, and Schools (HEALS) Act. The cost for the HEALS Act is around $1 trillion.
Will Trump step in with an executive order?
There have been more discussions about Trump possibly signing an executive order that could address unemployment benefits and a moratorium on evictions.
Larry Kudlow, the director of the National Economic Council, told PBS’ Judy Woodruff that the White House may “walk away” from the negotiations and look for funding for some programs.
“Chief Meadows has said, if nothing is achieved by Friday, we might conceivably walk away from it,” Kudlow said. “That is, the Trump people might walk away from it.
“And the president has said repeatedly — and he said it again today — that he can do a lot of important things on unemployment extensions, on preventing evictions, on a payroll tax cut. He can do many things by executive order or presidential fiat. And he doesn’t necessarily need these negotiations.”
According to the Post, the Trump administration has asked federal agencies to identify all of the money they have not yet spent from the Cares Act.
Kudlow said White House officials are trying to determine whether this money could be redirected and used for other purposes.
What does that mean for a stimulus check?
A stimulus check is on hold until the two sides come together. Both the HEROES Act and the HEALS Act provide for checks to be sent directly to Americans.
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