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Repeal and Replace Obamacare Plan Not Looking Healthy

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Keeping to his campaign promises, President Trump has pushed House Republicans to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. However, Trump also urged Republicans to let Democrats handle the replacement of the program, noting that it’s an incredibly complicated piece of legislation. Now, Republicans have at long last provided a plan to do away with Obamacare. But that plan is already coming under fire from both sides of the aisle. What are the chances that it passes?

What Do We Know About the New Plan That Will Replace Obamacare?

For all the criticism Obamacare faces from those who find it too complicated, or chafe at being forced to pay for insurance even if they don’t want it, the plan provided health insurance coverage for 20 million Americans who otherwise would not have been able to have insurance. The new bill is already facing heated pushback from Democrats and Republicans alike. Surprisingly, many Republicans are opposing the plan on the grounds that it does not go far enough in gutting the ACA.

The new plan would offer individuals refundable tax credits to purchase health insurance and would not make insurance mandatory. The bill, called The American Health Care Act, would provide coverage to those with preexisting conditions, but allow insurance companies to ramp up fees and costs on slipped coverage, meaning that insurance companies could price out policyholders with higher premiums.

The AHCA would also alter Medicaid, giving each state a fixed amount each year from the government, which could potentially leave millions of seniors and people relying on Medicaid without coverage. In addition, the plan would also strip Planned Parenthood of funding for one year

According to House Speaker Paul Ryan, “The American Health Care Act is a plan to drive down costs, encourage competition, and give every American access to quality, affordable health insurance. It protects young adults, patients with pre-existing conditions, and provides a stable transition so that no one has the rug pulled out from under them,”

But will The American Health Care Act pass?

Watch the news from Wall Street Journal regarding the replacement of Obamacare:

Currently, Vice President Mike Pence is meeting with lawmakers to drum up support for the AHCA. But the truth is, it’s currently facing heavy opposition from both sides. In reality, the Republicans’ long-awaited repeal and replace may have to wait a while longer, as the American Health Care Act looks to be shut down before it can even get going.

Get the latest news on Trump’s new ban right here.

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Stimulus Checks: How Many Months Until Payments Go Out, and What Could You Receive?

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Stimulus Checks

Millions of Americans will receive direct payments from the federal government thanks to a $2 trillion federal funding package that was agreed to early Wednesday morning.

The bill, which could be signed by President Donald Trump later Wednesday, is in response to the coronavirus pandemic, which has shuttered non-life sustaining businesses nationwide and led to thousands if not hundreds of thousands of new unemployment claims.

Here are the details you need to know about when, and how much, you might receive.

When will the money go out?

According to CNN, relief may still be a couple of months away, as the outlet reports that checks or direct deposits might not go out until May.

“First, the IRS will have to calculate each person’s payment amount,’ CNN writes. “Then, it will need the correct direct deposit information or mailing addresses.

“To get the money to people who don’t usually file tax returns, it might have to request that information from the Social Security Administration or Veterans Affairs. In 2008, those people were required to file a return anyway in order to get their rebate.”

That, of course, will take time, and keep in mind that the IRS is still receiving tax filings, as well, even if the federal government and also Pennsylvania, among many other states, have pushed back the deadline to file.

For those looking for an optimistic timeline, mid-April seems to be the absolute earliest that checks could go out.

More: Pa. unemployment claims skyrocket to 540,000 since statewide coronavirus shutdown, shattering records

How much will I get?

Here is what the New York Times says:

“A $1,200 payment for each adult — and $500 per child — in households that earn up to $75,000 per year for individuals or $150,000 for couples. The assistance phases out for people who earn more.”

CNN has more details on what the phase-out threshold might look like.

“The payments would start to phase out for individuals with adjusted gross incomes of more than $75,000, and those making more than $99,000 would not qualify at all,” CNN writes. “The thresholds are doubled for couples.

“Qualifying income levels will be based on 2019 federal tax returns, if already filed, and otherwise on 2018 returns.”

What happened the last time this happened?

This package marks the third time since 2000 that the federal government has approved payments to citizens based on special circumstances.

As CNN notes, it took six weeks for checks to go out under a 2001 plan for tax rebates that were authorized by then-president George W. Bush. Checks during the ‘Great Recession’ of 2008 didn’t go out for three months, however.

Experts believe that an increase in electronic tax filing and the use of direct deposit for refunds could lead to expedited payments this time around, and those who have that set up are likely to receive their money faster than those who will be waiting on a check.

More: These central Pa. businesses are still open during the coronavirus pandemic

Where is the money coming from?

Syracuse.com has details:

“Taxes, essentially,” its Geoff Herbert writes.

“CNBC reports it’s unclear whether the money will be considered a loan or a gift, in which case some of it may have to be paid back.”

Why only one check?

Previous proposals that were discussed as the spread of COVID-19 continued to hurt the economy mentioned the possibility of two checks being sent out, but the agreement reached Wednesday calls for just one. It’s possible that a second round could go out, however, if schools and businesses must remain closed into the summer.

How will businesses be helped?

This part of the package is still being finalized, but Yahoo reports that the Small Business Administration will handle some requests while a new, still-to-be-named agency will handle others, likely for larger businesses and corporations. It was referred to as ‘a big credit facility’ by Pennsylvania senator Pat Toomey over the weekend.

“The facility will have two components: One will be administered by the Treasury Secretary with direct loans for a short list of “seriously distressed and absolutely essential companies,” likely including airlines,” Yahoo writes.

“The second component will be much bigger and be “a broad-based credit facility that will be available across categories, across sectors and industries.” Toomey said this program will give loans that will have to be repaid. “None of this is grant money,” he said.”

More of PennLive’s coronavirus coverage:

Why social distancing works, as demonstrated with Skittles

Pa. school districts prepare for possibility of students not returning to classrooms

Governors, still trying to flatten the coronavirus curve, balk at Trump’s Easter Sunday timeline

___

(c)2020 The Patriot-News (Harrisburg, Pa.)

Visit The Patriot-News (Harrisburg, Pa.) at www.pennlive.com

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Business

Will US Government Grant Restaurants’ Request for $145 Billion Recovery Fund?

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Will US government grant restaurants' request for $145 billion recovery fund?

Predicting that COVID-19 — along with the social distancing measures put in place to contain the outbreak — would result in a loss of $225 billion in restaurant sales over the next three months and cost 5 million to 7 million people their jobs, the National Restaurant Association asked the Trump Administration to create a $145 billion Restaurant and Foodservice Industry Recovery Fund.

“The restaurant industry is one of low margins, tight cash flow, and a workforce that depends on us for their livelihood,” Sean Kennedy, EVP of Public Affairs, wrote Wednesday in a letter addressed to President Donald Trump, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. “Without aggressive action from the federal government, many restaurants that are a staple of local communities will simply never resume service.”

He went on to say that the restaurant and foodservice industry needed immediate liquidity to compensate for reduced revenue attributed to coronavirus-related declines in order to pay employees, maintain service operations, meet transactional and financial obligations.

In order to maintain solvency, the NRA requested that the U.S. Treasury create the program within 15 days of enactment and provide grants with minimal delay.

According to an internal analysis by the organization’s economists, a three-month shutdown of the restaurant industry would also be a $675 billion hit to the economy overall, since every dollar spent in restaurants generates an additional $2 elsewhere in the national economy, the NRA said.

Specifically, Kennedy’s package calls for the government to:

  • Offer $35 billion for Community Development Block Grants for Disaster Relief assistance. This program is used when regions and communities — and their local businesses — may not recover after a federally declared emergency or disaster.

    “The unprecedented business disruption for restaurants and hospitality industry companies has led to significant concerns about whether businesses will be able to reopen this year. This targeted financial assistance will allow some businesses to maintain their commitment to their communities and hopefully prepare for a return to normal operations,” the letter stated.

  • Assistance in allowing businesses to defer mortgage, lease and loan obligations as most small businesses do not have long-term cash reserves.
  • $100 billion in federally backed Business Interruption Insurance. As of March 17, 28 states or territories have ordered closures for their restaurants and bars, according to the NRA, and an additional number of counties and municipalities have also mandated closures. While many businesses have invested in Business Interruption Insurance and Contingent Business Interruption Insurance, most policies can deny claims due to a “Virus” exclusion, the letter said.

    Rather than engaging in a protracted dispute and arbitration process, Congress must approve a timely insurance program through the U.S. Treasury Department that allows businesses to receive their insured benefit under an expedited time frame, the letter said.

    “As we enter a 12-to-18 month period of tremendous uncertainty in the hospitality industry, these insurance claims must be approved quickly and utilize a federal backstop similar to the program created for airlines after 9/11/2001,” Kennedy wrote.

  • Federal loan program equal to lost revenue. Create a federal loan program for a business to get a loan equal to lost revenue during an emergency three-month period with the option for extension through 2020. The loan would receive forgiveness as long as the employer keeps its workers on the payroll without reducing their pay, including workers self-quarantining or on paid sick-leave.

    “Before coronavirus, the recruitment and retention of employees was the top challenge for the restaurant industry,” the letter stated. “Amid this current massive economic disruption, the industry may lose its workforce for years to come. This critical legislation would permit employees to stay on payroll, maintain employer benefits, and avoid additional long-term harm to the restaurant industry. This legislation also keeps more Americans in the workforce rather than on public assistance — when the ongoing public health emergency subsides — Americans will be ready to get back to work.

  • $45 billion in expanded access to effective, efficient and affordable federal and conventional loans.
  • $130 Million in disaster unemployment assistance, which will help employees with financial benefits during interrupted employment due to closures and
    other emergency-related hardships. DUA benefits are payable to individuals (whose unemployment continues to be a result of the major disaster) only for weeks of unemployment in the Disaster Assistance Period.
  • Fix the Qualified Improvement Property technical correction. Congress can help the economy immediately by fixing QIP so that businesses can (a) amend their returns and receive money back that they effectively overpaid in taxes, and (b) receive the benefit of bonus depreciation, as a stimulus measure. This fix has been scored at a zero-cost to the federal government, according to the NRA.
  • Assistance in allowing businesses to delay, defer, or forgo tax obligations. Tax and financial forbearance from states and banking institutions on sales and income taxes, property taxes and other payments that directly impact a small business’s cash flow. States must expedite refunds for any over-payments of estimated taxes.
  • Tax credits for businesses that are retaining employees. Congress can quickly pass the Employee Retention Tax Credit, which has been utilized to protect
    employees and employers during similar emergency situations.
  • Reduced credit card interchange fees, expanding upon the Durbin Amendment under the Dodd-Frank legislation.
  • A Temporary Payroll Tax Cut that increases economic activity. Reduce the employee shares of Social Security payroll taxes by two percentage points (from 6.2% to 4.2% for employees) and hold the Social Security Trust Fund harmless through a transfer of general revenue. Employees/consumers will receive more pay in each paycheck immediately through a reduction in payroll tax withholdings.

“Taken together, these proposals will ensure that restaurants have increased liquidity and access to necessary financing to help them survive the dramatic loss in profits caused by the coronavirus,” Kennedy wrote.

In the coming days, the association said it would submit additional recommendations as the situation unfolds.

Read all coronavirus coverage on FastCasual.

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crisis

Senate Passes $8.3B Bill to Fight Virus

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Senate passes $8.3B bill to fight virus

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate passed an $8.3 billion measure Thursday to help tackle the coronavirus outbreak in hopes of reassuring a fearful public and accelerating the government’s response to the virus, whose rapid spread is threatening to upend everyday life in the U.S. and across the globe.

The money would pay for a multifaceted attack on a virus that is spreading more widely every day, sending financial markets spiraling again Thursday, disrupting travel and potentially threatening the U.S. economy’s decade-long expansion.

Thursday’s sweeping 96-1 vote sends the bill to the White House for President Donald Trump’s signature. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., cast the sole “no” vote. The House passed the bill Wednesday by a 415-2 vote.

The plan would more than triple the $2.5 billion amount outlined by the White House 10 days ago. The Trump proposal was immediately discarded by members of Congress from both parties. Instead, the bipartisan leadership of the House and Senate Appropriations committees negotiated the increased figure and other provisions of the legislation in a burst of bipartisan cooperation that’s common on the panel but increasingly rare elsewhere in Washington.

“In situations like this, I believe no expense should be spared to protect the American people, and in crafting this package none was,” said Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby, R-Ala. “It’s an aggressive plan, a vigorous plan that has received an overwhelming positive reaction.”

Trump was sure to sign the measure, which has almost universal support. It is intended to project confidence and calm as anxiety builds over the impact of the virus, which has claimed 12 lives in the U.S.

“The American people are looking for leadership and want assurance that their government is up to the task of protecting their health and safety,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.

The impact of the outbreak continues to mount. The British government is considering suspending Parliament for five months in hope of limiting the spread of the virus in the United Kingdom.

The legislation would provide federal public health agencies money for vaccines, tests and potential treatments, including $300 million to deliver such drugs to those who need it. More than $2 billion would go to help federal, state and local governments prepare for and respond to the coronavirus threat. An additional $1.3 billion would be used to help fight the virus overseas. There’s also funding to subsidize $7 billion in small business loans.

Other dollars would be directed to help local officials prepare for the potential worsening of the outbreak and subsidize treatment by community health centers. Medicare rules would be loosened to enable remote “telehealth” consultations whereby sick people could to get treatment without visiting a doctor.

Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., whose state is at the center of the crisis, praised the bill because it “will increase access for public lab testing, help pay for isolation and quarantine, help pay for sanitizing in public areas, better track the virus and those who might come into contact with it, help labs who are trying to identify hot spots, and limit exposure.”

The legislation contains a hard-won compromise that aims to protect against potential price gouging by drug manufacturers for vaccines and other medicines developed with taxpayer funds. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar would have the power to make sure commercial prices are reasonable. Azar is a former drug industry lobbyist.

Democrats said other steps may be needed if the outbreak continues to worsen.

“This may be a first step because we have issues that relate to unemployment insurance for people who are put out of work.” Pelosi said as she signed the bill to send it to Trump.

“We have only about 27% of people in this country who have paid sick days. So if they have to go home what is going to happen to them and their families?” said Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn.

DeLauro said Pence responded that he would raise the issue with the president.

The bill seeks to restore $136 million that the Department of Health and Human Services cut from other accounts such as heating subsidies for the poor to battle the virus.

The legislation comes as carping over the administration’s response to the outbreak is quieting down. Lawmakers in both parties had faulted a shortage of tests for the virus and contrasting messages from Trump and his subordinates. In an interview with Sean Hannity of Fox News on Wednesday, Trump downplayed the lethality of the virus, saying the World Health Organization’s updated estimate of a 3.4% death rate in coronavirus cases is “a false number.”

“Now you’re starting to see rapid deployment of tests, which makes me feel better, quite honestly,” said Rep. Raul Ruiz, D-Calif., a doctor. “I think their communications are a little better. As long as the president doesn’t contradict the experts and the scientists who know what they’re doing, things will get better.”

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