Talks on a second stimulus check are moving ahead in fits and starts. Here’s the latest status update.

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Whether Congress passes another stimulus relief law this year through a series of stand-alone bills or a large package, the pressures of the coronavirus pandemic on the economy and public health continue to mount. Over 218,000 people in the US have died from COVID-19, according to Johns Hopkins University, and the known case load has now reached over 8 million people.

President Donald Trump continues to urge negotiators to work together on a new stimulus bill, despite flip-flopping on stopping negotiations and going “big” on a $1.8 trillion package presented on Oct. 9. The bill supports $1,200 stimulus checks and a renewal of payroll assistance for the airlines and other industries. 

After backlash from Republicans and Democrats alike, Trump’s camp is now urging Congress to divert funds from emergency coronavirus relief money into a stand-alone bailout bill — possibly for small businesses or the airline industry — while also continuing to move ahead on the overarching package.

The current White House proposal is for a $1.8 trillion package, less than the $2.2 trillion bill put forward by Democrats. On Monday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is preparing to bring a $500 billion stand-alone bill in support of the Paycheck Protection Program to a vote. It will not include stimulus checks.

Dizzy yet? Confused? You’re not alone. We’ll help you get a handle on which top issues could be in a stand-alone bill or overarching stimulus package — one that would either squeak by before the Nov. 3 election or perhaps return to the drawing board after the election. This story updates often.

What’s in the White House’s $1.8 trillion stimulus offer?

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has for months met on and off with Treasury Secretary and chief White House negotiator Steven Mnuchin on the size and approach of the next economic relief bill. Negotiating every day this week, the two are coming closer together.

According to The Washington Post, Mnuchin’s current offer stands at $1.8 trillion and includes:

Another stimulus payment: Stimulus checks up to $1,200 for eligible adults and $1,000 for qualifying child dependents (the CARES Act set dependent payments at $500).

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Unemployment benefits: The proposal sets enhanced unemployment benefits at $400 a week (down from the $600 included in the CARES Act but up from the $300 that Trump authorized this summer through executive action).

Funding for coronavirus testing and tracing: Earlier this week, Mnuchin ceded ground on this previous blocker, saying the White House would include money for coronavirus testing and tracing into its stimulus offer

State and local funding: A big sticking point, the proposal includes $300 billion for cities and states, up from $250 billion in an earlier proposal.

What could a stand-alone bill contain?

As a way to reach some of the goals a comprehensive bill could accomplish, White House leaders have at times pushed for smaller, targeted bills they say everyone could agree on. 

Paycheck Protection Program: The Senate’s Oct. 19 bill will focus on the paycheck protection plan that was part of this spring’s CARES Act and provided forgivable loans to small businesses as an incentive to keep employees on the payroll. The Senate is not interested in passing a larger bill before the election, McConnell has said, although the White House administration insists it can make Senate Republicans fall in line.

$1,200 stimulus checks: On Oct. 6, after being hospitalized for COVID-19, Trump said he’d sign a bill authorizing another $1,200 check immediately. Another direct payment to qualified people is one of the areas that everyone — both Republicans and Democrats — appear to agree on.

Airline assistance: With the airline industry hit hard by the coronavirus-induced economic downturn and starting to furlough workers, negotiators have tagged airline assistance for stand-alone legislation. “Let me just be really clear,” Pelosi said Oct. 8. “I have been very open to having a stand-alone bill for the airlines.” The House earlier passed a $28.8 billion airline support bill that Pelosi suggested could be the starting point for legislation. 

Support for the US Postal Service: This summer, the House passed a bill that would address concerns about the service and the upcoming election and provide $25 billion in additional funding. The Senate didn’t take up the bill.

$100 bills

Enhanced unemployment benefits are already ending in many states, leaving people waiting anxiously for a new relief package that includes more funding for the program.

James Martin/CNET

What’s in the Democrats’ comprehensive $2.2 trillion offer?

Pelosi continues to point to the updated version of The Heroes Act (PDF) as the basis for a new bill. The House passed the bill on Oct. 1 largely along party lines. The new Heroes Act includes:

Direct payments: The current Democratic proposal includes payments of up to $1,200 per individual and $500 for each dependent.

Payroll support for small businesses and airline workers: The Democratic plan would refund payroll protections and extend the program to airline workers

Unemployment benefits: The plan would reauthorize $600 federal unemployment payments, through January 2021.

State and local funding: The bill would provide assistance to state and local governments to pay essential workers, including first responders and health workers.

Housing assistance: The proposal would renew financial support for renters and homeowners to meet rental and mortgage payments.

For more information, here’s what you need to know about coronavirus hardship loans and unemployment insurance, and what you can do if you’ve lost your job.

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