Congress is set to return to Washington next week to hammer out a deal on the next COVID-19 relief package before the August recess and House and Senate leaders are reportedly still far apart on the major provisions of the bill.

Lawmakers privately believe an agreement will be reached but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) this week outlined very different priorities for the fifth and probably final COVID stimulus measure. Senate Republicans will introduce a roughly $1 trillion bill next week that is likely to include liability protections for employers and financial incentives for schools to reopen.

“I expect to begin to layout to my colleagues in the Senate a proposal,” McConnell said from Kentucky this week. In addition to protecting employers that reopen from lawsuits, “kids in school, jobs, and healthcare are likely to be the focus of the bill.”

The Senate bill will be much smaller in scope than the $3 trillion-plus Heroes Act that Pelosi ushered through the House two months ago. Pelosi has spent weeks criticizing McConnell and Senate Republicans for not moving sooner on the next COVID package and said this week that McConnell is still thinking too small relative to the need for additional stimulus.

“There’s a recognition that there’s going to be a bill,” Pelosi told reporters. “They went from zero to now $1.3 [trillion]. That’s not enough, we need more. But we see the public evolution of their thinking.”

Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) are looking for more aid for state and local governments and renewal of expiring unemployment benefits, among other provisions, in the next package.

This week IHMM sent out a communication to more than 26,000 of its certificants and stakeholders requesting all to contact their Senators about supporting S. 3779, The Skills Renewal Act, as we and 114 other professional certification organizations across the country push for a $4,000 tax credit that, in part, can be used for deducting expenses relating to preparing for, testing for and maintaining professional certification.