Negotiations Stall on Additional COVID-19 Emergency Funding Package
Negotiations Stall on Additional COVID-19 Emergency Funding Package

August 2020

Despite meetings between congressional Democratic leadership and the  Trump administration, action on an additional emergency funding package to address the Covid-19 pandemic stalled in August. 

There has been little movement toward an agreement between the House and Senate bills that have been introduced since spring. In May, the House passed the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act, which includes $3 trillion in emergency funding. The Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection and Schools (HEALS) Act, introduced in the Senate in July, includes more than $1 trillion in spending, with $65 million in the bill allocated for additional costs of administering the 2021 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) 4th and 8th grade math and reading assessments.

At issue in the negotiations is the amount of funding in a final package. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has sought to move Republicans to a bill that would include at least $2 trillion, which has thus far been rejected by White House officials. The White House has sought a more narrowly tailored package, while Pelosi has insisted on a broad package addressing priorities such as direct relief for state and local governments, extension of additional unemployment insurance, education funding, and additional direct payments to individuals, among other issues.

Although there is not current agreement on an overall emergency funding package, House members returned to Capitol Hill on August 22 to vote on the Delivering for America Act, a bill that would provide emergency funding to the U.S. Postal Service. The legislation would not fund additional priorities included in the HEROES Act. Senate Republicans have circulated an additional relief bill, the Delivering Immediate Relief to America’s Families, Schools, and Small Businesses Act, to provide funding for the Postal Service. Neither this smaller bill nor the HEROES Act include the $65 million for NAEP provided in the HEALS Act. Unlike the House bill, the Senate bill includes several other priorities included in the HEALS Act, such as liability insurance and funding for K–12 and higher education.

The House resumed its recess after its vote on the Delivering for America Act. Both the House and Senate are in recess until September 8.