Coronavirus stimulus: Senate proposes HEALS Act, what now?

The much-awaited GOP coronavirus stimulus bill has now finally been announced. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, on Monday, introduced the GOP’s coronavirus stimulus checks and aid bill, called the HEALS Act (Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection and Schools Act). The bill marks the opening bid in negotiations for the next coronavirus stimulus package.

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Coronavirus stimulus checks bill: negotiations to commence

The provisions in the HEALS Act are similar to what were largely expected, including the stimulus checks, unemployment benefit, credit for employers and more. Though many provisions are similar to what Democrats are demanding, nothing is confirmed as yet.

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Now, the leaders from the House and the Senate will start negotiations to arrive at the final coronavirus stimulus checks and aid bill. The negotiations are expected to extend into August. Both Democrats and Republicans now have one base bill to refer to. The Democrats-backed HEROES Act passed the House in mid-May.

Democrats will want to change some provisions. After the HEALS Act was introduced yesterday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said the bill falls short on several fronts. Some of the points, as per the Democrats, that the HEALS Act lack is hazard pay for essential workers, funding for food stamps and more.

The HEALS Act is also significantly narrower than the Heroes Act in the total amount. The GOP's coronavirus stimulus bill, the HEALS Act, allocates about $1 trillion, compared to over $3 trillion proposed by the Democrats’ HEROES Act.

“We have stood ready to negotiate for more than two months,” Pelosi said, according to Vox. “I call upon the Republican leadership of the House and Senate and representatives of the President to come to the Speaker’s Office and join Leader Schumer and me within a half an hour of releasing their plan today to negotiate and get the job done.”

When to expect the final bill?

After introducing the next coronavirus stimulus bill – the HEALS Act – McConnell called the Democrats to show their support.

“So now we need our Democratic colleagues to reprise their part as well," McConnell said, adding that Democrats need to "put aside partisan stonewalling," and "rediscover the sense of urgency that got the CARES Act across the finish line."

McConnell said that he hopes to get the stimulus bill to the House in the next two to three weeks. Ed Mills, a Washington policy analyst at Raymond James, however, believes that the lawmakers could reach a deal by the first week of August.

With coronavirus cases rising again in the U.S., there is an urgency to come up with the next stimulus bill. The Senate is set to go on a month-long recess from August 7. So, the decision on the next bill needs to come in the next two weeks.

If a bill is approved and signed into law before August 7, then it would be possible to send out the first Coronavirus stimuls checks in August.