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Slimmed Down COVID-19 Response Bill Fails to Advance in the Senate

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On Thursday, the Senate failed to garner the 60 votes needed to advance a lean COVID-19 response bill. The Delivering Immediate Relief to America’s Families, Schools and Small Businesses Act (S. 178), spearheaded by Senate Republicans, comes with a roughly $500 billion price tag, roughly half as much as the Senate’s HEALS Act and nearly $3 trillion less than the House-passed HEROES Act.

The bill includes $105 billion for K-12 and higher education but ties the funding to the reopening of school buildings and providing more funding to private schools. The bill also includes multiple provisions that would divert public funds to private schools, including emergency appropriations for scholarship-granting organizations in each state modeled after Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s Education Freedom Scholarship proposal, as well as enhancements to 529 accounts to allow parents of K-12 students at public, private, or religious schools to use funds for educational expenses such as tutoring, online materials, and other materials or services not provided by the school.

Democrats have advocated that the two parties negotiate a package with a $2.2 trillion price tag, the approximate midpoint between the HEALS Act and the HEROES Act. Among Democratic priorities thus far excluded from Senate bills are another round of direct payments to eligible individuals and aid to states and localities.

The fate of the next COVID-19 package, including timing and contents, remains up in the air, but lawmakers are beginning to cast doubt that it would materialize before the November election.

To view S. 178, go here.

Posted:  10 September, 2020
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