Talks over the next COVID-19 relief measure, rumored to be in the $1 trillion cost range, continue even as Congress remains out of session.

The White House wants Congress to pass another stimulus package by the first week in August. The House is scheduled to begin its August recess by Aug. 3, with the Senate following a week later, leaving roughly two weeks for hammering out an agreement.

With at least 4 million private sector workers receiving pay cuts during the pandemic and the unemployment rate still hovering around 11 percent, the White House has floated a payroll tax cut, liability protections and tax incentives for companies seeking to bring workers back, and another round of direct payments for individuals as priorities in the next COVID-19 package. The payroll tax cut does not have widespread support, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) suggested this week that direct stimulus checks for individuals should be limited to those earning $40,000 or less.

“The people that I think have been hit the hardest during this whole episode have been people making $40,000 a year or less,” McConnell said yesterday. “Many of them work in the hospitality business – hotels, restaurants – we’re going to be acutely aware of that particular segment of our population going into this next package that we’ll be putting together in the next few weeks.”

Lawmakers are also focused on imposing new limits and guardrails on the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which has proven immensely popular for businesses because the loans can be forgiven if employers maintain their payrolls. Senate Small Business Chairman Marco Rubio (R-FL) has suggested a proposal for new PPP loans to be accessible to businesses that employ 300 or fewer employees and can provide evidence of significant revenue losses this year.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers who want to let businesses apply for second Paycheck Protection Program loans are also proposing that the additional aid be limited to small businesses with 100 employees or less. The Prioritized Paycheck Protection Program (P4) Act, introduced by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), a senior member of the Senate Small Business Committee, stipulates that businesses eligible for a second PPP loan must have already expended their initial loan and must demonstrate a revenue loss of 50 percent or more during the pandemic.

Another bipartisan bill, the Paycheck Protection Small Business Forgiveness Act introduced by Sens. Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), would streamline forgiveness of PPP loans of $150,000 or less if the borrower submits a simple, one-page attestation form to the lender.

“We can avoid the burdensome cost of superfluous bureaucracy required to arrive at the foregone conclusion of loan forgiveness by implementing a few commonsense changes,” Sen. Cramer said. “The Paycheck Protection Small Business Forgiveness Act would give small businesses peace of mind by eliminating unnecessary bureaucratic requirements and simplifying the process of forgiving smaller loans.”

With the PPP still clearly a top tool for assisting businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, ASAE continues to meet with congressional offices working on the next stimulus package to push for 501(c)(6) associations to be eligible for PPP loans. Last week, ASAE delivered a community sign-on letter to Congress, alongside 2,200 organizations, asking Congress to deliver three actions: provide 501(c)(6) associations access to the Paycheck Protection Program and reauthorize the PPP until at least December 31, 2020; pass the Pandemic Risk Insurance Act of 2020 (H.R. 7011), which would establish a system of shared public and private compensation for business interruption losses and event cancellations resulting from future pandemics or public health emergencies; and pass the Skills Renewal Act (H.R. 7032/S. 3779), which would provide Americans who have been laid-off or furloughed due to COVID-19 a $4,000 tax credit to pursue post-secondary skills training and career development. ASAE supports amendments to the Skills Renewal Act proposed by the Professional Certification Coalition (of which ASAE is a co-founder and Steering Committee member) ensuring that the tax credit is available for use with a wide range of reputable national certification programs and for expenses associated with testing required to obtain and/or maintain a postsecondary credential.