The Senate Just Passed a $2 Trillion Coronavirus Stimulus Package. Here’s What’s in It

Spread the love

After days of intense and dramatic negotiations, the Senate passed a landmark $2 trillion relief package for millions of Americans and businesses hurt by the coronavirus pandemic.

The bill includes direct $1,200 cash payments to many Americans; $150 billion to help the healthcare industry; $500 billion for state and local governments and companies; and $350 billion in loans and assistance for small businesses.

The measure passed unanimously, although only 96 Senators were present because four were in quarantine after exposure to the coronavirus. The measure must now pass the House of Representatives before heading to President Donald Trump’s desk. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said there will be a voice vote on Friday morning, which does not require in-person participation. While passage is not guaranteed, Senators on both sides of the aisle expressed confidence they had reached a deal that would pass the Democrat-majority House.

“Over the past few days, the Senate has stepped into the breach. We packed weeks or perhaps months of the legislative process into five days. Representatives from both sides of the aisle and both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue have forged a bipartisan agreement in highly partisan times, with very little time to spare,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said on the floor in remarks preceding the vote. “It’s been a long, hard road, with a remarkable number of twists and turns, but for the sake of millions of Americans, it will be worth it.”

Congressional staffers spent all day writing the 880-page bill after a deal was announced early Wednesday morning, and the text of the final agreement was not officially circulated to Senate offices until less than an hour before the vote. In a sign of the precarious nature of the situation, McConnell’s office circulated one version of what was deemed the final text Wednesday evening, only to circulate an updated copy several hours later.

Here are six key provisions, hashed out over long days on Capitol Hill:

Direct payments to Americans

American taxpayers earning up to $75,000 will receive $1,200, and couples earning up to $150,000 will receive $2,400. Beyond those amounts, payments will decrease for individuals earning up to $99,000 and couples earning $198,000. Every child in single- and two-parent households earning less than $198,000 will also receive a $500 payment. The payments will be based on 2019 tax returns – or 2018 if those were the last returns filed – but it is unclear when the payments will start.

Expanded unemployment insurance

The government will provide people who are unemployed with a $600 weekly stipend for up to four months, on top of benefits already provided by states. These payments will go to people who have been laid off or furloughed, and to out-of-work members of the gig economy. The bill almost hit a snag Wednesday when a group of Republican Senators — Nebraska’s Ben Sasse, South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott and Florida’s Rick Scott — voiced opposition to this provision, believing it would encourage laid off workers to stay on the unemployment rolls. The Senate ultimately voted on an amendment to fix the provision, but it failed, largely along party lines.

$150 billion for health care

The deal allots $150 billion for the health care system and hospitals, which have been sounding the alarm that they will soon exceed capacity and are already running low on critical supplies; $100 billion will go directly to hospitals, and the additional funds will go toward supplies, medical research and workforce increases. Some $16 billion is specifically allotted for hospitals to procure supplies like personal protective equipment and ventilators.

Loans to small businesses

Lawmakers say they are allocating at least $360 billion to help small businesses and nonprofits. Much of that will go to businesses to pay workers, mortgage interest and rent. Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey said businesses of up to 500 employees are eligible for this assistance.

Loans to state governments and industries

The Treasury Department will create a fund worth $500 billion or more to assist local and state governments and industries hit by the pandemic. The Treasury will also make $46 billion in direct financial assistance, including $25 billion to airlines, $17 billion for national security and $4 billion for cargo.

Oversight of corporate use of funds

Democrats fought for stringent oversight of the Treasury fund, arguing that Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin could personally benefit from the funds without anyone knowing. The GOP agreed to appoint an inspector general to oversee the fund, and any businesses controlled by Trump, Pence, Mnuchin, or heads of executive departments or their spouses, in-laws or offspring are barred from receiving loans.

According to a Democratic aide, the final hold-up in the bill was related to oversight. Schumer temporarily held the bill because Republicans left out language, which the aide said was previously agreed upon, requiring the Treasury Department and Federal reserve to publish beneficiaries of the bailout fund every seven days. (A Republican aide said that Schumer’s staff drafted the text incorrectly and was trying to “cover their tracks.”)

* This article was originally published here

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *