As political forces began looking ahead to a combative 2020 election season, Congress failed to enact a final stimulus package intended to provide economic relief through the end of the year.
Back in May, the House Democrats passed their proposed stimulus package. The Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act was $3 trillion stimulus bill which among other things expanded the federal supplemental unemployment insurance program and provided a second round of direct stimulus payments.
This proposal was likely only and opening offer in negotiations between Democrats and Republicans, but the GOP failed to coalesce around their own proposal with differences emerging between the White House, Senate Leadership, and hardline conservatives.
Some sticking points were issues like increased funding for the Postal Service and State Governments, the size of supplemental unemployment insurance, and liability protections for businesses.
Democrats drew a red line at the size of the unemployment benefit saying that people were relying on these payments and studies did not show that there was a decline in workforce participation due to increased unemployment benefits. They criticized the liability protections being offered by Senate Republicans as a blank check for businesses to reopen regardless of worker safety.
However, a closer look at the liability shield shows that, in reality, the proposal would only grant businesses protection from lawsuits if they made best faith efforts to comply with federal and state regulations regarding the prevention of COVID-19. It is likely that Democrats could accept this provision if Republicans moved closer in terms of the economic relief offered through the other parts of the bill.
For now, Congress is in recess with House Democrats being called back for a vote on a bill to fund the Postal Service through the election. Senate Republicans have begun floating the idea of a "skinny stimulus" which would enact additional supplemental unemployment benefits of $300 and enact the business liability protections wanted by the GOP.