Senate Republicans on Monday introduced an approximately $1 trillion COVID-19 stimulus package called the HEALS Act that, among other provisions, expands access to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) for all 501(c)(6) associations with 300 or fewer employees.
The HEALS Act is comprised of a series of bills, including an updated measure from Senate Small Business Committee Chairman Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) that expands PPP access to 501(c)(6)s with the 300-employee cap and removes a $500,000 loan cap for 501(c)(6) organizations that was in an earlier draft. The bill does, however, prohibit access to the PPP for any 501(c)(6) whose “lobbying activities comprise more than 10 percent of the total activities of the organization.” The bill also provides $190 billion in new and existing funding for the PPP and reauthorizes the program through the end of the year, as ASAE called for in its July 21 letter to Congress.
ASAE applauded Rubio, Collins and others for addressing the needs of 501(c)(6) associations in the package and is seeking changes to the lobbying restriction language which is open to interpretation and likely to create confusion in the (c)(6) community about whether groups are eligible to apply.
The HEALS Act would also trim unemployment benefits, send another round of $1,200 stimulus checks to eligible Americans and shield businesses, schools and nonprofit groups from lawsuits from employees and others who contract the coronavirus. Unemployment benefits are an especially sticky point in negotiations with congressional Democrats as the extra $600-per-week increase in unemployment benefits that Congress approved in March are set to expire at the end of the week. More than 20 million Americans are currently receiving these benefits as the economy endures a severe contraction caused by the pandemic. The federal government reported this week that the U.S. economy shrank 9.5 percent from April through June, the largest quarterly decline since the government began publishing data 70 years ago.
The GOP package has been panned by Democrats and negotiations are off to an especially rocky start. House Democrats prefer the $3.5 trillion HEROES Act they passed more than two months ago, and repeated visits to Capitol Hill this week by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows have made little progress toward compromise. There are also splits on the package among Senate Republicans and between the Senate and the White House.
“Ten weeks after House Democrats passed the HEROES Act to defeat the coronavirus and safely reopen the economy, Senate Republicans’ ongoing delay continues to wreak its deadly toll on the lives and livelihoods of the American people,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said earlier today. “Republicans need to get serious immediately, and work with Democrats to save lives and livelihoods during this devastating time.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said it’s the Democrats who aren’t willing to negotiate. “The House Speaker moves the goal posts while the Democratic Leader hides the football,” McConnell said. “They won’t engage when the administration tries to discuss our comprehensive plan. They won’t engage when the administration floats a narrower proposal. They basically won’t engage, period.”