The US Senate on Monday released its $1 trillion coronavirus relief proposal — dubbed the Heath, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection and Schools (HEALS) Act — which includes liability protection for businesses, reductions in unemployment subsidies, additional funding for Paycheck Protection Program loans and more.
The legislation didn’t come all at once but was announced by separate Senators and committees in different outlines and bills. Forbes provided some details of the fragmented bill.
Here are a few components that will be of particular interest to workforce managers:
Unemployment: The proposal would limit enhanced federal unemployment insurance to 70% of a worker’s previous wages. It sets the enhanced benefit at a sum of $200 per week on top of what recipients would normally receive from states through September, down from the $600 they got from April through July. In October, the 70% replacement would take effect up to a maximum of $500 per week. Staffing firms and other employers have voiced concerns about the $600 enhancement, claiming recipients are reluctant to return to the workforce because they can make more on unemployment.
Liability shields: The legislation would shield businesses, schools, nonprofits and churches from lawsuits, except for cases of “gross negligence” or “willful misconduct.” Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, said Tuesday the Senate would not pass another coronavirus relief measure if it doesn’t include a liability shield for businesses, MarketWatch reported. That may be tough to negotiate with Democrats, who instead are pushing for an OSHA standard for businesses to follow.
Tax credits: The proposal includes several tax credits, including an enhanced employee retention credit and a credit for expenses such as upgrades to workplaces and testing that help businesses operate safely.
PPP loans: The HEALS Act would set aside $190 billion for additional Paycheck Protection Program loans. The bill would allow small businesses with fewer than 300 employees that have seen revenue fall by more than 50% to apply for a second round of aid. It would also authorize $100 billion for loans to seasonal businesses and companies in low-income Census tracts that can show revenue reduction of more than 50%.
Any proposal is headed for a congressional battle. “The GOP plan does not meet this moment,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, tweeted on Monday. He stated the $3 trillion Heroes Act, which the House passed in May, “matches the scale of this crisis and the needs of Americans.”