Phase V COVID-19 Relief Package Remains on Ice as Sides Fail to Reach Deal
On August 18, Senate Republican leadership released a new proposal for a Phase V COVID-19 relief package. The Senate program would include liability protections for businesses, extend—but reduce—emergency federal unemployment benefits, extend a modified Paycheck Protection Program, which provides forgivable loans to businesses with fewer than 500 employees, and make available billions in funding for the U.S. Postal Service.
Senate Republicans were anxious to get a proposal on the table following the failure of negotiations with House Democrats. Negotiations reached a stalemate in early August as the Democratic majority in the House of Representatives and the Republican majority in the Senate were unable to reach a compromise.
In May, House Democrats passed a $3 trillion bill called the HEROES Act that focused on providing assistance to state and local governments, direct $1,200 payments to individuals, continuing the $600-a-week in additional unemployment benefit, hazard pay for frontline workers, and emergency assistance to renters and homeowners.
Neither side could find an acceptable compromise. As negotiations stalled and the deadline for the increased unemployment benefits and moratorium on evictions passed on July 31, President Trump issued a series of executive orders that purported to continue federal unemployment benefits, but reduced them to $300 a week with an option for states to provide an additional $100, an extension of the student loan payment pause to the end of the year, and a plan to reduce payroll taxes. However, while Trump also mentioned extending the moratorium on evictions, the order did not specifically direct his Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar to do so, and many are questioning the legality and effectiveness of the order in general.
Republicans are hoping that this new proposal will restart negotiations on a Phase V deal. However, the House and Senate are both currently in August recess, so when the Senate might vote on this proposal or a compromise package remains unsure.