There's an inkling that the stimulus bill could still be salvaged.Sarah Tew/CNET
Leaders on Capitol Hill have adjourned and returned to their home states, despite a willingness to seek common ground earlier this week on the next coronavirus relief bill. Republicans and Democrats remained deadlocked over the price tag of the next package, which is expected to includea second stimulus check. The deep lines drawn by both sides in the political sands have left millions of Americans' financial futures uncertain during the COVID-19 economic crisis.
At least one Senator has called for recess to end and Congress to get back to work passing the stimulus bill, for the purpose of dealing with the postal service crisis ahead of the presidential election.
"[Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell should end recess, return to Washington, and work to pass the bipartisan emergency funding needed to provide urgent economic relief, combat this pandemic, and ensure the Postal Service can operate in a safe and timely manner," said Catherine Cortez Masto, a Democrat from Nevada, in a statement released Saturday.
The Senate adjourned Thursday after the House, with plans to return Sept. 8 and Sept. 14, respectively. The September return date could fluctuate as the Democratic National Convention kicks off on Aug. 17 and runs through Aug. 20.
Though the offices on Capitol Hill are empty, five signs point to a deal still happening, one that could still put money in your pocket this fall. We update this story frequently as the news develops.
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No. 1: Republicans and Democrats want to reboot stalled talks
If all the name-calling and finger-pointing in the last week have revealed anything, it's that both sides recognize the need for another emergency relief package to help the US cope with coronavirus testing, reopening schools, a looming eviction crisis and the upcoming election, among other things.
Despite signing four executive actions last week, President Donald Trump tweeted support for a bill (while also bashing Democrats), with school reopening on his personal agenda.
I am ready to send $105B to the states to help open schools safely with additional PPE. DEMOCRATS ARE HOLDING THIS UP!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 14, 2020
"We can't wait until Sept. 30," Pelosi said Thursday about the passage of the stimulus bill. "People will die."
When could the stimulus bill pass?
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No. 2: Trump's executive actions don't cover every proposal
So far, the president's directives (one executive order and three memoranda) cover a $400-maximum unemployment benefit, examine eviction protections, deferral of student loan payments and a payroll tax cut.
Trump's executive actions skip over areas that have been considered in a bipartisan stimulus package, including:Testing, tracing and treatment of COVID-19Support schools reopening and provide PPE (personal protective equipment) Food assistance Aid for local and state governmentsProtection for liability from coronavirus lawsuitsMoney to keep post offices open for elections
On the Republican side, McConnell has said repeatedly that liability protection for businesses and schools must also be part of an agreement, which the orders didn't touch.
Now playing: Watch this: Stimulus Check Standoff
No. 3: The executive orders could take weeks to implement
Trump's memorandum suggested a $400-maximum unemployment benefit, of which federal funds would only cover $300 and states are expected to chip in the remaining $100. Governors of cash-strapped states struggling with the coronavirus pandemic are already pushing back. Earlier this week, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo called the benefits order "laughable." California Gov. Gavin Newsom estimated that matching the proposed unemployment benefits would cost California around $700 million per week, which would require deep program cuts.
In addition, the new program will only be available to people who can certify that they're unemployed or partially unemployed due to disruptions caused by COVID-19, and only if they already qualify for at least $100 a week in unemployment benefits. The policy excludes about 1 million people.
The methods by which Trump wants to fund his orders could cause more delays. Trump is unilaterally seeking to use leftover or unspent FEMA funds -- ahead of what experts say will be an active hurricane season -- to pay unemployment benefits.
The end of all talks will be devastating to millions of Americans.Sarah Tew/CNET
In addition, if Trump's orders are challenged in court, legal action could further delay relief aid to Americans. Because the Constitution gives Congress control over federal spending, Trump may not have the legal authority to issue binding executive orders about how money should be spent during the pandemic.
On top of the wait time to get federal unemployment benefits, the funding could also run out in about a month and a half, according to labor department officials.
No. 4: The orders could be a dead end
In addition to lacking a definitive stance on relief aid, as well as measures for testing, tracing and treating the coronavirus, the orders signed by Trump don't officially renew a moratorium on evictions. Instead, they leave the decision to address evictions in the hands of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield. There's also no official direction about providing financial assistance to renters, leaving that up to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson.
The memorandum regarding student loan deferral only extends previous deadlines. And as for payroll tax cuts, Schumer said that the directives could leave individuals and businesses with a larger bill to pay in a few months.
Democrats and Republicans have been disagreeing on how much relief aid should be included in the stimulus package.Sarah Tew/CNET
No. 5: Politicians need a win heading into the election
The election season is well underway, and November is quickly approaching. As such, 470 seats in the US Congress -- 35 Senate seats and all 435 House seats -- are up for election.
Trump, McConnell and Pelosi are all looking to be reelected this fall. And incumbents are aware that their constituents are watching their every move in regard to the stimulus package negotiations. It's also possible that the topic of a relief package could come up during town halls or debates held during the election season.
With first-time jobless claims totaled 963,000 last week, dipping only marginally below 1 million claims for the first time since March, and a housing crisis looming ever closer, obstinately waiting for the other side to cave can only be seen as a valid decision for so long. Votes are on the line, and pushing through a working stimulus package could help ensure another term in office.