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COVID-19 relief phase 4: Provision previews and predictions

Trump signature on COVID relief payment check closeup2

Tax season 2020 is over. That means the focus of most Americans returns to the same thing we've been fixating on (besides taxes) for the last few months: COVID-19.

The coronavirus is still here. It's getting worse in some — OK, a lot of — states. Even in the areas where it seems to be under better control, people are still worrying about what it means to their lives and, of course, their livelihoods.

Although some jobs returned earlier this summer, that partial economic recovery is not expected to last after coronavirus cases reemerged following state re-openings. So folks are looking to Washington, D.C., for additional help.

COVID relief phase 4 rocky start: The House passed the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions, or HEROES, Act back in mid-May, about the time things on the pandemic front were starting to look a bit better.

So optimistic Senate Republican leaders back then said that instead of taking up the House bill, they wanted to wait and see how strong the economic upturn would be before considering another relief measure.

The White House, or at least its Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, apparently has seen enough. Last week Mnuchin called on Congress to pass another round of stimulus aid as parts of the economy continue to struggle with the effects of the virus.

A preview of what might be in the next expected coronavirus relief bill is the focus of this weekend's multiple Saturday Shout Out selections.

HEROES Act pending: My first shout out is to myself, not just because it's my blog, but because my post on the HEROES Act highlights some key provisions of that bill. The biggie is, of course, more money to more taxpayers.

The original stimulus checks created by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act were a maximum of $1,200 per person or $2,400 for married couples filing jointly. Folks also could get $500 for each qualifying younger dependent.

The HEROES Act keeps the $1,200 and $2,400 amounts, but it adds another $1,200 per eligible child, up to a maximum of three children. So a family of five could get another relief payment of $6,000 — $2,400 combined for the parents and $3,600 for the three kiddos.

White House, Treasury takes: Shout Outs #2 and #3 go to articles on what the White House wants in the next bill.

Mnuchin told the House Committee on Small Business last week that the next round of Covid relief money should be aimed at industries that have been hardest hit by the pandemic, as well as smaller businesses and low- to middle-income families.

Alan Rappeport's and Nicholas Fandos' article for The New York Times highlights Mnuchin's call for continuing the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and the areas he says should get the additional money. 

Alexis Gravely's coverage for Tax Notes also notes Mnuchin's remarks about PPP conflicts of interest with regard to the loan applications. "If Congress wants to put back in the conflict rules, we’re more than happy to work with Congress," Mnuchin said.

You also can read Mnuchin's prepared remarks.

More business tax breaks: Elsewhere in the House, Republicans on the Ways and Means Committee are looking to reward workplaces that make it safe for their employers to return. With backing from the tax-writing committee's minority membership, Rep. Tom Rice (R-South Carolina) introduced the Healthy Workplaces Tax Credit.

The proposal would create a refundable tax credit against payroll taxes for 50 percent of the costs incurred by the business for COVID-19 testing, personal protection equipment (PPE), disinfecting, extra cleaning and reconfiguring workspaces. That bill, which could find its way into the next stimulus negotiations, is Shout Out #4.

Payroll tax persistence: Speaking of payroll taxes, Saturday Shout Out #5 goes to the White House, where Donald J. Trump continues to insist that the next coronavirus relief measure must contain a payroll tax holiday. If it doesn't, according to Jonathan Curry's Tax Notes article, Trump won't sign the bill.

This will be fun to watch, sort of a legislative mud wrestling match, since many in Congress, including some Republicans, are opposed to the payroll tax holiday idea.

However, don't be surprised if, when push comes to shove and the Nov. 3 election nearing, enough members of Congress facing tough races give in and include some sort of payroll tax break so that they can tout the relief to their voters constituents. 

NY no-SALT limit legislative diet: Then there are the pet projects likely to be brought up in any upcoming phase 4 COVID-19 relief. One that's going to get attention, but not be part of the bill, is a call by New York Democrats to repeal the state and local tax (SALT) federal deduction cap.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer Rep. Tom Suozzi held a press conference last week to announce their effort to "push to insert language the House passed, and Rep. Suozzi ... authored, to restore our full SALT deduction in the upcoming coronavirus legislation under negotiation right now."

Schumer-Suozzi SALT repeal press conference_14July2020
U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer of New York (at left in face mask) and Rep. Tom Suozzi, Democratic representative for Long Island and Queens (right, at podium), at a July 14 news conference announcing their plan to include in the next COVID-19 relief bill the full repeal of the limit on the amount of state and local tax that can be deducted from federal taxes. (Photo courtesy Rep. Suozzi)

The SALT repeal statement by the two Empire State members of Congress is this weekend's Saturday Shout Out #5.

Schumer's and Suozzi's effort is a nice gesture for their constituents, who face among the highest state income and property taxes in the nation, but it's just that. A gesture. This hot-button tax proposal is going nowhere right now, either on its own or as part of pandemic relief.

Happy weekend tax and coronavirus reading. Now we just wait for the next relief measure.

You also might find these items of interest:

 

Coronavirus Caveat & More Information
In 2020, we're all dealing with extraordinary circumstances,
both in our daily lives and when it comes to our taxes.
The COVID-19 pandemic and efforts to reduce its transmission
and protect ourselves and our families means that,
for the most part, we're focusing on just getting through these trying days.

But life as we knew it before the coronavirus will return,
along with our mundane tax matters.
Here's hoping that happens soon!
In the meantime, you can find more on the virus and its effects on our taxes
by clicking Coronavirus (COVID-19) and Taxes.

 

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