FIVE ISSUES OF DEBATE FOR THE HEROS ACT
- Second stimulus payments of $1,200 (seems to be agreed)
- Liability protection for Business’s for illness of customers (not agreed)
- Aid for State and local governments (not agreed)
As difficult as it is to accept, the pandemic continues in this country at full force. I think like many of us, I keep hoping to wake up and see that the cases are dropping dramatically. Although we are all praying that day will come, sadly it has not come yet. It has been over a week since the federal stimulus funding of $600.00 a week for federal unemployment benefits has officially expired on August 1, 2020 and several weeks since the last payments went out in 49 states. Unfortunately, our lawmakers have failed to reach an agreement on the next stimulus relief package, although our majority democratic house has passed a bill that has been on the table for many weeks.
As the raging partisan debate goes on, Americans continue to suffer. Our kids are at a standstill in their education and this country continues its spiral downward. Our schools are in chaos, our economy is in turmoil, and our morale is in mourning for all of the loss that has been suffered by so many families. Life events continue to be missed and the sadness most of us are feeling during this dreadful time is plaguing all aspects of our existence. Meanwhile, Congress sits on the hill refusing to relieve American panic and misery making little progress in reconciling the $3.4 trillion HEROS Act that was passed by the House of Representatives in May. I won’t even go into the complete lack of leadership for nationally enforced safety protocols that should have been implemented from the beginning.
The Senate revealed their $1 trillion HEALS Act last week, almost 2 1/2 months after the House passed the HEROS Act. In the interim of the infighting, close to 30 million Americans are anxiously awaiting new benefits as they are now formally cut off from enhanced unemployment benefits and unable to go back to work in the mist of our tragic economic state. Without leader ship to put a formal plan into place for testing, regulation and protections of the American health, the entirety of the pandemic will likely be one of the most tragic political events of all of our lifetimes.
While we can all debate the best practices to slow and ease the pandemic, the impact on the economy cannot be denied and the destruction it has caused continues to impact most Americans. So what exactly are the members of the House and the Senate arguing over? Although lawmakers are still far apart on some key issues, there is some agreement on certain elements of the bills. Chief negotiators Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows have reportedly agreed to strike a deal and have a vote by the week of August 10. Although they are committed to bringing the matter to a vote, the divide between the parties is still great. In fact, it is $2.4 trillion great.
What is Agreed Upon:
At the writing of this blog it seems that both sides agree about:
- Sending Americans a second stimulus check for approximately $1200 for single filers.
- Shockingly, they also seem to be in agreement at keeping schools closed and childcare closed which leaves this country at the standstill it has been that at to this point.
These seem to be the only issues that the sides agree on.
What is Not Agreed Upon:
The parties remain at odds on many issues including:
- Whether to include state and local governments in the federal relief package;
- Whether to extend federal unemployment benefits.
- Providing a liability shield for businesses against liability for patrons contracting the coronavirus. This is a difficult matter and I have prepared a subsequent blog regarding a coronavirus release. It is likely that you will frequently see a liability release in the future and currently for everything from schools, to any businesses that start to open including gyms, entertainment facilities and even salons.
The federal provision to protect businesses is not something that I would disagree with as long as businesses are held to the highest standard and follow guidelines to protect their clients and employees. The problem with a blanket protection is that it must also come with blanket requirements of protection which we have not had to date. I believe that the biggest problem with regulation during the pandemic has been the failure of our leadership to immediately and swiftly put safety measures into place, everything from handwashing, to mask wearing, to social distancing as soon as the pandemic started in order to protect Americans and our economy. I guess hindsight is always 2020, but a federal provision to protect businesses is not something that I would disagree with as long as businesses are held to the highest standard and follow guidelines to protect their clients and employees.
To protect Businesses from their own negligence in exposing guests to illness defies long-standing principles in the law. However, I do believe that there can be protection if federal guidelines are in place that businesses strictly follow. Thus, there can be liability for failure to follow the guidelines to protect their patrons. Just like all aspects of negligence law, elements of negligent must be clearly outlined to allow for adherence. If safety guidelines are clear and followed, business should receive some federal protection for their efforts to diligently protect their guests by following them and held liable for failing to follow the guidelines.
With the Senate set to recess on August 7, 2020 and extending the time for a vote, members of Congress are starting to face the reality that heading home with struggling constituents is not an option. It appears they have agreed that the most important thing they need to do is to pass a relief bill for the American people before they leave Washington. For this reason it does appear that the stimulus may pass by August 7 or shortly thereafter. It will be approximately two weeks from the time the new stimulus bill is passed until most states are able to implement new benefits and resume payments. Therefore, if Congress is able to stick to its current timeline and pass the bill the week of August 7, 2020, Americans may not see money arrive until the end of August which could be more than a month since their last federal benefit payment. In addition, in the state of Nevada our office has received many calls regarding the inefficient unemployment department and their inability to get through and the fact that benefits were not paid for months after their applications were submitted. There is currently a class-action against the state of Nevada for their mishandling of claims during the pandemic. https://www.ktnv.com/13-investigates/class-action-lawsuit-seeks-to-force-nevadas-unemployment-office-to-do-its-job
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