COVID-19 Policy Update #22

Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP

[co-authors: Taylor M. Daly, Gabriel R. Harrison, Camillo A. Morales, Rachel C. Robinson, Public Policy Specialists, Sean M. Feely, Senior Public Policy Specialist, and Alex Monié, Policy Advisor]

With Introduction of HEALS Act, Bipartisan Negotiations on Phase 4 Begin in Earnest: An Analysis of the House and Senate Positions

Senate Republicans on Monday unveiled their next COVID-19 response legislation in the form of the $1 trillion Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection and Schools (HEALS) Act. Similar to the House Democrats’ HEROES Act, Senate Republicans have proposed providing a second round of stimulus checks to individuals and addresses necessary changes to the unemployment insurance (UI) benefits and Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) established by the CARES Act earlier this year. The HEALS Act would also provide $16 billion in additional funds for virus testing, approximately $105 billion for schools and a five-year shield from COVID-19 lawsuits, except in the case of gross negligence or intentional misconduct.

With the current federal unemployment benefits established in the CARES Act set to expire at the end of July, the HEALS Act would reduce the current supplemental $600 per week in federal unemployment benefits to $200 per week until the end of September. Beginning in October, the payment would be replaced with a payment up to $500 that, when combined with the state UI payment, would replace 70 percent of lost wages. Democrats have expressed concern that state unemployment offices will not be able to adjust to this new plan, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has indicated that maintaining the $600 benefits will be her starting point in negotiations with Republicans.

Senate Republicans’ proposal comes two months after House Democrats passed their own Phase 4 relief proposal, the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act (H.R. 6800). With only a number of days until Congress leaves plans to adjourn for its August recess, final negotiations will continue as the Senate attempts to pass their legislation before conferencing with House Democrats on a final proposal. Negotiations are expected to begin immediately with a goal of passing both Chambers before adjournment for the summer recess on August 7.

Please click here to review a side-by-side summary of key policies in the HEALS Act vs. the HEROES Act.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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