WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Republican leadership unveiled its coronavirus aid package earlier this week, and a change in the language for direct payments could mean many Americans see more money in their second stimulus check.
The GOP plan calls for checks up to $1,200 for most taxpayers plus an additional $500 for any dependent. The word “any” is the change that could result in additional dollars.
According to Yahoo Finance, parents of older high schoolers and college students claimed as dependents would get the bonus. This also includes anyone taking care of elderly relatives who are also claimed as dependents.
In the first round of stimulus payments, only parents of dependents under 17 received the additional $500.
“We also include, in the additional $500 for each dependent, some people that we didn’t intend to leave out last time, but we did,” Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa said Monday. “So regardless of age, some of these dependents will now be helped.”
A Democratic plan approved in the House back in May proposed a similar structure for dependents but with the amount being $1,200 instead of $500.
While direct payments have support on both sides of the aisle, key items in the rest of the GOP coronavirus aid package have lawmakers at odds.
The biggest issue right now between Republicans and Democrats is cutting the weekly unemployment benefits boost from $600 to $200.
Under the GOP proposal, the jobless increase would be reduced to $200 a week through September and phased out to a new system that ensures no more than 70% of an employee’s previous pay. States could request an additional two months, if needed, to make the transition.
“In the middle of a pandemic, Senate Republicans and the White House want to give out-of-work Americans a 30-percent pay cut,” said Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.
Schumer also noted that the current version doesn’t even have a Republican consensus.
“Weeks of infighting among Senate Republicans and the White House caused unnecessary and harmful delays,” he said.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows arrived on Capitol Hill for a second day of talks with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Schumer. They also heard an earful during a private GOP lunch Tuesday.
Half of the Republican senators are expected to oppose any bill. Several senators have vigorously questioned Mnuchin, Meadows and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell behind closed doors. They warned against caving to liberal demands and worried the price tag will balloon past $1 trillion, said Republicans who spoke on condition of anonymity.
“It’s a mess,” said Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo. “I don’t know what we’re trying to accomplish.”
Republicans are seeking $16 billion for virus testing; Democrats want $75 billion.
For school reopenings, Democrats want four times the $105 billion that Republicans propose.
Democrats want to extend a federal eviction moratorium on millions of rental units that is expiring Friday, but Republicans are silent on evictions.
McConnell insisted no bill will pass without a sweeping liability shield for doctors, businesses and schools reopening. Democrats want tougher federal workplace safety oversight.
One major sticking point will be over funding for cash-strapped states and cities. Democrats proposed nearly $1 trillion for states and cities to avert municipal layoffs of government workers. Republicans gave no new money and prefer providing them with flexibility in previously approved aid.
The two bills are widely seen as simply starting points in talks. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said McConnell would be lucky to get half the Republicans on board.
“We’re in a war, OK, with the virus,” Graham said at the Capitol. “If you don’t think we need money for hospitals and doctors, you’re not looking at the same movie I’m looking at.”
An area of common ground is agreement on a second round of $1,200 stimulus payments to Americans earning $75,000 or less.
But Democrats also add a “heroes’ pay” bonus for front-line workers, money for food stamps and other assistance.
The Republicans come to the negotiating table hobbled by infighting and delays. Conservative Republicans quickly broke ranks, arguing that the spending was too much and priorities misplaced.
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., scoffed earlier that McConnell’s bill was sure to win support — from Democrats.
Republicans were scrambling to justify providing $1.7 billion for a new FBI headquarters in Washington that’s a top priority of the president but not of lawmakers or McConnell. Trump’s hotel is across the street from it on Pennsylvania Avenue. Keeping the property in federal hands rather than relocating the FBI to neighboring Maryland or Virginia as some propose prevents competing hotels on the prime downtown corner.
As bipartisan talks unfold, the White House has suggested a narrower relief package may be all that’s possible. Democrats have dismissed that as too meager. And Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said, “I haven’t heard any support for that.”
The $600 weekly jobless benefits boost, approved as part of the March aid package, officially expires Friday, but because of the way states process unemployment payments, the cutoff has effectively begun.
Economists widely see signs of trouble in the economy as states revive stay-at-home orders.
Right now, a resolution isn’t expected for weeks.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.