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What You Should Know About The Heals Act Stimulus Bill

Updated : September 11th, 2020

What You Should Know About The Heals Act Stimulus Bill

The Senate recently announced the HEALS (Health, Economic Assistance Liability Protection & Schools Act.) stimulus bill. The HEALS Act stimulus bill is a $1 trillion stimulus package as an aftereffect of the CARES Act. 

The act offers to extend unemployment benefits and provides a second stimulus check. But this check will be lower than the benefits that one currently receives. For a person to be eligible for this package, the criteria are similar to the Cares Act passed in March. HEALS act will also provide $200 a week to the people who qualify for unemployment benefits until October.  

What The Unemployed Should Know About The Act

Post-October, the states will shift into a joint state and federal unemployment program that aims to replace 70% of the workers’ previous pay. Here are some key points you should know about this bill.

  1. In the two months that unemployed people receive benefits, states must change their unemployment benefits process to substitute the flat rate supplement process. 
  2. Through this bill, the Federal Government will assist in providing 70% of people’s lost pay through unemployment benefits. 
  3. A formula is yet to be designed for those who earn hourly wages since they don’t necessarily work for the same hours during a week.  
  4. Even though unemployed people are set to receive a $400 cut in their benefits, the benefits rate is still higher than what was paid before the pandemic.
  5. Workers residing in Arizona, Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, Florida, and Tennessee are set to receive these benefits first. 
  6. The main reason these states will benefit first is that they receive lower unemployment benefits than other states.
  7. This bill also asserts that state unemployment offices must inform individuals about particular laws pertaining to getting back to work. 
  8. The HEALS Act does improve the situation for sole proprietors allowing them to use net profits for their payroll systems.
  9. People whose earnings are $75,000 or less than that will qualify for the entire $1200 stimulus package. On the other hand, people who earn less than $150,000 per year are eligible for the $2400 check. 

Does This Program Have any Benefits?

This bill passed by the Senate will have several benefits for those struggling with unemployment, such as: 

  1. The HEALS Act furthers the unemployment benefits extension.
  2. The act helps people get by and pushes people to get back to work ASAP since the amount of the benefits is reduced.
  3. To extend financial assistance to state unemployment bureaus, Heals Act will provide $2 billion to help better their respective unemployment insurance systems. This prescribed financial assistance will help state offices handle the surge in claims in a much more efficient manner.

Will The Capping Of Benefits Have Any Downside?

Unemployment benefits will work similarly as it was with the Cares ACT. The only difference is that unemployed people will receive $200 instead of $600 until October. Unemployed workers will continue receiving their regular unemployment benefits. The $200 that workers receive comes as an added benefit. 

Once the $200 benefits scheme is over, a flat payment scheme will come into the picture that will redeem 70% of an unemployed worker’s previous pay. But many analysts believe with this new bill that many state unemployment offices will not be able to determine benefits, let alone promptly pay them on time. 

The capping of unemployment benefits may make it quite tricky for earners to receive the entire 70% immediately in some states, also delays may mainly occur as each state uses a different formula to calculate unemployment benefits.

 This is a huge logistical challenge for state unemployment offices to calculate millions of people’s benefits amount. The states are also under added pressure since they have to get the ball rolling within two months.   

What Happens If States Are Not Able To Reprogram Their Systems 

If states cannot change their systems in time, they can apply for a waiver for the next two months. Since state unemployment offices are already facing an onslaught of claims, it remains to be seen whether states can make this switch in time.

Usually, such a big switch can take much more time, since the states have to receive guidance and a standard set of operating procedures from the Department of Labor. Many experts believe that the 70% replacement wage proposal does not seem like a serious proposal.

 The experts believe Senate Republicans are not dead set on the 70% wage scheme. It is only an entry-level figure to set off negotiations with the democrats. A clear picture will only be seen with the passing time whether the HEALS act is a boon or a bane to state unemployment offices and the unemployed.  

What is the Paycheck Protection Program?

The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) helps small businesses with 300 or fewer employees receive forgivable loans. This helps these businesses keep their employees on the payroll. For a firm to be eligible for a loan, it should have reported a revenue fall of at least 50%.

Businesses in low-income communities also receive benefits from the PPP. These businesses can apply for a 20-year loan with an interest rate of 1%. This can benefit these smaller businesses massively to keep the show going on and retain employees so that they keep receiving their paychecks.    

Conclusion

The proposed Heals ACT stimulus bill has failed to reach an agreement as of now. This has left several people in the lurch, as no one knows what the government’s next step is going to be. But if an executive order is signed by the president quickly, it will help the unemployed get some clarity on how the next few months will pan out. 

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