Gig workers to get unemployment benefits in pending Senate coronavirus stimulus legislation

Daniel Fowler
March 25, 2020

The White House and leaders in the Senate have come to a tentative agreement on what should be included in the almost $2 trillion stimulus package to deal with the impact of the coronavirus, including a provision to send checks to individuals.

The Senate and House of Representatives still need to pass the legislation before sending it to President Donald Trump for his signature.

The Trump administration struck a deal with Senate Democrats and Republicans on an historic rescue package that tees up more than $2 trillion in spending and tax breaks to bolster the hobbled US economy and fund a nationwide effort to stem the coronavirus. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, meanwhile, has introduced a counterproposal from House Democrats that adds up to $2.5 trillion. The proposal would bar businesses controlled by the president, vice president, members of Congress and heads of executive branch departments from receiving loans or grants from the Treasury programs.

"To the American people, we say big help, quick help is on the way", Schumer said Wednesday morning in an interview on CNN, describing the new coronavirus as an "unprecedented health crisis".

Schumer said negotiators agreed to put "unemployment insurance on steroids" by expanding those covered to include people who are furloughed, gig workers and freelancers, and by increasing the payments by $600 dollars per week for four months on top of what states provide as a base unemployment compensation.

In addition, there are numerous other tranches of money for small business loans ($300 billion), local and state governments ($150 billion), and hospitals ($130 billion).

The size of the stimulus package has grown over the past week, from the $850 billion that the Trump administration reportedly first asked for, to the current $2 trillion.

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It's unclear how long it will take the Internal Revenue Service to process and calculate each and every payment.

The Council of Nonprofits had been seeking $60 billion, and, as NPQ reported, there had been an effort to include student loan debt relief in the legislation, but neither of these provisions appear to have made it into the final bill.

From this sum, direct payments of $1,200 will be given to adult Americans who make $75,000 or less in adjusted gross income.

The legislation hit a roadblock when Democrats earlier objected to what they said was a priority given to corporations over average American workers in the legislation. Some $240 billion is set aside for additional emergency appropriations and safety net programs: food stamp benefits, child nutrition, the Centres for Disease Control, and public health and transportation agencies. This agreement to provide relief to American workers, families, and small businesses is critically important - and should be considered without delay.

Companies would also be able to defer payment of the 6.2 percent Social Security payroll tax. It also creates a pool of $500 billion for distressed companies, to be overseen by an inspector general and a five-person panel created by Congress.

The agreement reached in the early hours of Wednesday includes tax rebates, loans, money for hospitals and rescue packages.

White House aide Eric Ueland announced the agreement in a Capitol hallway Wednesday, shortly after midnight, capping days of often intense haggling and mounting pressure. Republicans were tepid about the package, but President Trump endorsed it and it ultimately passed Congress with the support of 90% of lawmakers in both chambers.

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