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Up to $6,000 of Individual Payments and Larger Unemployment Benefits: What the Proposed New Relief Package Would Look Like

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If it feels like the last stimulus check fell short, you are not alone. Many people have reported that while the help was useful, it was not enough to get them through the month, especially since a lot of them have lost their jobs during this time. That is why the Democrats have proposed a new bill that would further help residents get through the crisis. 

The 1,800 page proposal, entitled the ‘‘Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act’’ or the ‘‘HEROES Act’’, is a $3 trillion relief package that aims to provide aid for state and local, governments, coronavirus testing and  a new round of direct payments to Americans. If it were to pass, it would be the biggest relief package in the history of the U.S.

However, there are still a lot of questions regarding the potential plan, and it still has to go through some stages before being approved, if it ever does. Here is what we know so far:

Will it cover immigrants?

One of the most controversial aspects of the “CARES Act”, the previous relief package that sent stimulus checks to Americans, is that it left out most immigrants.

While the CARES act required taxpayers to have a Social Security Number (SSN), the HEROES Act, however, only appears to require the disclosure of a Tax Identification Number (TIN) to receive a relief check. The bill also requires for only one spouse in a married couple to provide their TIN, removing the CARES Act restrictions for mixed couples, that is, US citizens married to immigrants who file their taxes with an Immigrant Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN).

A joint statement released by various organizations, including Care in Action, CPD Action, Greenpeace USA, Indivisible, United We Dream Action and Working Families Party saying that they expected the House to pass the bill and that they were “ready to mobilize to make sure that Republicans in both houses of Congress, especially the Senate.”

“This is a historic, once-in-a-generation crisis,” the statement reads, “It requires a historic response. This proposal is an important step.

“We urgently need the relief measures that Speaker Pelosi introduced today. More than 80,000 people have died, more than 1.3 million have been infected, more than 33 million have filed for unemployment, and millions more are struggling to pay bills, hold on to housing and put food on the table. And predictably, generations of racist, anti-immigrant and anti-worker policies that created inequality in work, health, wealth and education are now allowing the coronavirus to attack Black, Latinx, AAPI, undocumented and Native American people at far greater rates, and are deeply disrupting life for communities of color.”

The document still specifies that the help would not be extended to “non-resident aliens.”

What it would entail

A big part of the legislation, $1 trillion to be exact, would be devoted to state, local, territorial and tribal governments. It would also send another round of stimulus checks for individuals, this time of up to $6,000 per household depending on their annual income.

Furthermore, it would increase unemployment insurance, which would be extended until January 2021, in addition to establishing a $200 billion “Heroes Fund” to extend hazard pay to essential workers. Other parts of the bill include an increase in nutrition assistance benefits by 15 percent, $175 billion in housing assistance, a $3 billion to increase mental health support and another $75 billion directed for coronavirus testing and contact tracing.

However, not all parts of the bill have to do with money. The project also aims to implement tracing and isolation efforts, such as requiring passengers to wear masks on airplanes and public transit and introduce provisions to ensure that all voters can vote by mail in the November election.

Immigrants will also be much more benefited from this package than with the CARES Act. According to The National Immigration Center, the next COVID-19 relief bill will address crucial gaps left in relief legislation, ensuring that the next COVID-19 relief bill address crucial gaps left in relief legislation enacted thus far, halting the implementation of President Trump’s “public charge” wealth test, ensuring that as many people as possible are released from immigration detention and immigration authorities stop arresting people for civil immigration violations. It also proposes that Immigration and Customs Enforcement and U.S. Customs and Border Protection don’t receive more funding from Congress or other sources.

The Odds Are Not Great

If it all sounds a little too good to be true, it might be because it is. As soon as the Democrats proposed the idea, they were met with pushback from the Republicans, who called it “a liberal wish list.” 

According to CNN, Sen. John Barrasso, a member of Republican leadership in the chamber, warned that the new bill “is dead on arrival.”

“That will not pass. It’s not going to be supported,” he said of the new legislation.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell shared the sentiment, calling the emerging Democratic bill a “big laundry list of pet priorities,” adding that it is not something that “deals with reality.”

Additionally, some Democrats have asked for a week’s extension to discuss further ideas and objectives. 

A Divided Government

Predictably, Republicans were immediately critical of the new legislation, adding that it would go nowhere in the Republican-led Senate as it contains provisions that have divided both political parties for years. One of them is the suspension of a tax provision for two years that limits tax breaks for upper-income households in high-tax states, something that the GOP has opposed for years. 

McConnell added that his party is more concerned with how to protect businesses from liability lawsuits instead. 

“Members are tracking the implementation of the CARES Act,” he said. “We are discussing how Congress could do everything from further strengthening the health response to ensuring that a second epidemic of frivolous lawsuits does not redirect the national recovery into a trial-lawyer bonanza.”

Meanwhile, some Democrats are not too happy either with some of the proposals that were left out of the bill. Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar and Ayanna Pressley, among others, signed onto a letter requesting further economic assistance for the public. Namely, they argued that instead of a one-time check, the bill should include recurring payments. However, their petition was not granted.

“It would be an endless amount of money if we put our wish list for the future in there,” Pelosi said, “But that is not what the case is. Sometimes I get a little heat from my own folks who say, ‘why can’t we do this in this bill?’”

Other proposals that were left out include Rep. Pramila Jayapal’s Paycheck Guarantee Act, a plan that covered 100% of workers’ wages up to $90,000 per year, according to CNN.

“When people say that Jayapal’s bill for a paycheck guarantee or recurring payments is ‘too costly,’ I’d like them to explain to me why they think in a low inflation, low interest rate environment a crisis response of spending to prevent massive unemployment and a shrinking of the GDP is bad policy. I have yet to hear a coherent economic rationale,” California Rep. Ro Khanna, who championed the recurring payment plan, told CNN.

What’s next?

If the bill passes in The House of Representatives by simple majority by May 15, it moves to the Senate. If it moves to the Senate, the bill is assigned to another committee where it will be debated and voted on. If a simple majority passes the bill again, The President has 10 days to sign or veto the enrolled bill, and then it is official. 

However, the process is not as quick as it may seem, and McConnell has even said, there is no “urgency” to act on the Senate’s part. According to The Washington Post, when Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) was asked by the press if he thought the bill would pass in the Senate before Memorial Day (May 25th), he responded “Oh God, no.” 

Surprisingly, the President himself has expressed interest in additional legislation. When he was asked by the press about the possibility of a second round of direct payments to individuals, he responded that The White house was “negotiating with the Democrats.”

“Well, we’re talking about that with a lot of different people. I want to see a payroll tax cut. I want to see various things that we want,” Trump said. “I want the workers to be taken care of. But we are talking about that. […] We’ll see what happens.”

However, according to The Washington Post, Democrats have denied to be in any conversations with POTUS, and urged their Republican counterparts to support them in looking for alternatives to help the public.

“We must think big for the people now, because if we don’t it will cost more in lives and livelihood later,” Pelosi said at a press conference. “Not acting is the most expensive course.”

Alexandra Tirado Oropeza is a Venezuelan journalist covering politics, immigration, entertainment and social justice. She moved to the U.S. in 2014 to pursue a Writing degree at The University of Tampa, and after graduating, she moved to Los Angeles where she works in broadcast and as a freelance writer. She’s passionate about equality, freedom of speech, art and dogs.