| G. Michael Dobbs
SPRINGFIELD – In a tele-conference on March 28 House Ways and Mean Chair Richard Neal said he could imagine there may be a second and possibly third check to Americans to help get them through the economic challenges caused by COVID-19.
He called March 27, when the CARES Act was passed, one of the “most remarkable days in the years I’ve served.” He said the American people could see how fast Congress could act in an emergency and that “partisanship was cast to the side.”
Neal outlined some of the features of the bill that was passed by Congress and signed into law, including a stimulus check for Americans and $100 billion for hospitals. He added that Small Business Administration loans would be partially forgiven. There is a job retention tax credit, which he sees as “symbolic of building economic confidence.”
One point Neal stressed understanding was how, in the past, those who freelance may have not benefited during other economic stimulus efforts, such as in 2008. Because the Internal Revenue Service is charged with sending out checks, he explained those who file taxes would receive assistance.
He said the legislation also acknowledges the “gig” economy in which people may be working several part-time jobs. Professionals such as barbers and salon workers will also receive checks.
The goal is for “people getting the money quickly and spending it quickly,” Neal said.
Neal would like to see a fourth or fifth stimulus bill to include the expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit. Besides the action the Congress is taking, Neal acknowledged the steps taken by the Federal Reserve to bolster the economy.
When asked if the effects to the economy and the healthcare system should result in examining the infrastructure for both, Neal said he could see some expansion of services.
“The emergency room is not the best place for healthcare,” he said.
In a written statement Neal said, “Today’s legislation provides meaningful assistance to our strained health care system, the millions of Americans who have lost their jobs, and families who are struggling to make ends meet during this national crisis. Ways and Means Committee Democrats fought to include provisions that support small businesses, expand unemployment compensation and help hospitals and health care workers get the resources they desperately need.”
A fact sheet supplied by the White House Office of Legislative Affairs detailed the provisions of the bill. Among them are the following:
This legislation provides tax-free payments – treated as a refundable tax credit – to Americans, giving families the immediate financial support they need.
• Couples earning up to $150,000 will receive $2,400, plus an additional $500 for each child.
•Individuals earning up to $75,000 will receive $1,200, plus an additional $500 for each child.
• These payments will phase out for those earning over $75,000, $112,500 for head of household filers, and $150,000 for married couples filing joint tax returns.
• The legislation provides much needed assistance to Americans out of work.
• The CARES Act allows States to temporarily increase unemployment benefits and receive Federal reimbursement for the additional amount.
• Encourages States to waive the typical one week waiting period and provides an additional 13 weeks of benefits
• Creates a new program to assist the self-employed and independent contractors who are unemployed due to the pandemic.
• The legislation provides relief for homeowners and renters, ensuring that Americans’ homes are not threatened by the coronavirus.
• Enables payment forbearance for federally backed mortgages, requires a foreclosure and eviction moratorium for homeowners with such mortgages, and imposes an eviction moratorium for renters in federally supported housing.
• Suspends penalties for withdrawing up to $100,000 from retirement accounts.
• Allows a high-deductible health plan with a health savings account to cover tele-health services prior to a patient reaching the deductible.
• The legislation provides $3.5 billion in emergency funding to our child care providers to stay open, keep payroll, and prioritize the child care needs of healthcare, emergency, and sanitation workers all across our country.
Additional information can be found at https://neal.house.gov.