By Mark Valentini, Director of Legislative Affairs
There is some optimism that a COVID relief deal will be reached between Speaker Pelosi and President Trump prior to November 3, but it is incumbent upon Senate Republicans to get on board. After months of negotiations, there continues to be disagreement on the following issues:
- Liability protection for schools, hospitals and businesses. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has insisted for almost six months that the next relief package will not pass the Senate without liability protections against frivolous lawsuits for businesses that have followed federal, state or local guidelines for protecting employees from exposure. This provision is a top priority for PHCC. The half-trillion-dollar package passed by the Senate last month included that language; therefore, Leader McConnell has held true to his word. Speaker Pelosi may have to fold on this issue if she wants a deal to have any chance of passing a Republican Senate. However, if no deal is passed by the end of the year and Democrats take control of the Senate and White House, this will not be a priority. Congress needs to pass a bill before the end of the year for this provision to have a chance at life.
- Funding for state and local governments. Speaker Pelosi is pushing for hundreds of billions of dollars to assist states with pandemic response. President Trump, on the other hand, views this as rewarding states that have spent taxpayer dollars irresponsibly. This is one issue where the Speaker will not budge.
- Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC). $600 weekly federal unemployment benefits expired at the end of July. Republicans want to continue the program at $400 per week, while Speaker Pelosi insists on continuing $600 weekly benefits until Spring 2021.
- Stimulus payments. Last Spring, Americans received pandemic stimulus checks worth $1,200 ($2,400 for couples, additional $500 for dependents). House Democrats and the White House agree on an additional round of stimulus payments, but it may not pass muster with Senate Republicans.
There is bipartisan agreement that the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) should be extended and include 501(c)6 organizations for eligibility to participate, and whatever legislation is introduced is highly expected to include those provisions. However, any progress is meaningless unless the Senate takes the legislation up for a vote with at least 13 Republican Senators committed to supporting it. House Democrats and the Administration both believe the relief package will reinvigorate the economy; conservatives are wary of passing yet another multi-trillion-dollar bill that will add significantly to the federal deficit. It is expected that if Republicans retain the Senate, a scaled-down bill that focuses on small business provisions that are universally agreed upon would pass before the end of the year; if Democrats take the Senate and White House there is no incentive to pass a bill until the new Congress is installed, in which case a much broader bill would pass but exclude liability protections.
If you agree that any COVID package that is passed must include PHCC’s policy priorities such as liability protection, extension of the PPP and tax-free treatment of PPP funds, click here TODAY and to tell Congress to protect contractors who protect the health and safety of the American people.
Director of Legislative Affairs , PHCC-National Association