$1,200 checks, unemployment benefits: What's in the next coronavirus relief bill?

Senate Republicans unveiled their next round of coronavirus relief on Monday, promising to include a fresh round of $1,200 stimulus checks while cutting back the boost to unemployment benefits.

The HEALS Act, estimated at $1 trillion, differs in major ways from the $3.4 trillion HEROES Act that the Democratic-controlled House passed in May. The GOP delayed its proposal until Monday because of infighting within the party. The two sides now face time-sensitive negotiations to reach a deal before the Senate leaves for a recess on Aug. 7.

Here are several key elements of the competing proposals:

Stimulus checks

  • Senate: $1,200 per adult up to income cap, $500 per child
  • House: $1,200 per adult up to income cap, $1,200 per dependent

If you got a $1,200 direct payment this spring after Congress approved its previous coronavirus relief package -- known as the CARES Act -- you're in line to get another stimulus check.

Both the House and Senate proposals include $1,200 payments to adults using the same income eligibility criteria as last time. They call for a one-time payment of $1,200 to all Americans who make less than $75,000 a year, or joint filers who earn less than $150,000. The benefit starts to phase out above those income levels.

There's one major difference: the Senate proposal would deliver $500 per child, while House plan includes payments of $1,200 per dependent.

While there seems to be broad support for a new round of direct payments, the issue is tied up in negotiations over the bigger bill.

Unemployment benefits boost

  • Senate: extends boost at $200 per week, down from $600 a week
  • House: extends $600 per week extra through Jan. 31, 2021

The Senate Republican proposal cuts the increased unemployment benefits to $200 per week, down from $600 per week in the CARES Act.

Under their plan, Republicans said that states would ultimately cap unemployment benefits at 70 percent of a person's previous income. 

The jobless benefits issue is one of the most glaring differences between the House and Senate proposals. Under the bill approved by the House in May, the $600 per week boost would be extended through Jan. 31, 2021.

But Republicans are concerned with estimates showing 70 percent of people made more money on unemployment than they had at their jobs.

"I think workers and Americans understand the concept that you shouldn’t be paid more to stay home than to work. That the fair thing is to replace wages," Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said on Fox News Sunday.

Democrats said the additional money encouraged people to stay home and not be forced to look for work amid a pandemic.

"Everybody wants to talk about being family friendly. Let’s not squawk about $600," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said late last week. 

An average of 450,000 Minnesotans have been getting the $600 a week from the federal government, a spokeswoman for the state's economic development agency said. That's on top of state benefits, which max out at $740 per week in Minnesota.

But the federal boost ended Saturday, meaning this week's deposit will be the last with the additional money. Next week, unemployed workers will see a cut of 45 percent or more to their jobless benefits.

Minnesota economic development commissioner Steve Grove is calling on Congress to extend the larger benefits.

"Many people who were getting that extra money, they could be facing poverty when that $600 cliff comes up," Grove told FOX 9 last week.

Student loan forgiveness

  • Senate: no forgiveness, but caps monthly payments
  • House: provides $10,000 in loan forgiveness

The CARES Act allowed borrowers to stop making payments on their student loans without penalty through Sept. 30. During this time, it dropped the interest rate on federal student loans to zero percent. But it didn't forgive any portion of a person's student loans. 

House Democrats' proposal would forgive up to $10,000 of student debt. The Senate plan does not wipe away debt but Republicans would cap payments at 10 percent of a person's income after necessities are paid for.

Other key differences

The House proposal includes $1 trillion for state and local governments, where budgets have been hammered by the pandemic. The Senate proposal does not include additional funding for states or local governments.

Many states and cities are now grappling with budget cuts that will reduce or eliminate services.

The House is calling for $430 billion in additional funding for schools, while the Senate proposal includes $105 billion. Some of the Senate's funding would be earmarked for schools that reopen this fall.