Agreement Reached on Coronavirus Bill
The Senate reached agreement on a $2 trillion coronavirus rescue package early Wednesday that provides significant relief for lower-income Americans, including increased unemployment benefits and a one-time $1,200 check that would be sent to most adults making $75,000 or less annually.
The bill was expected to be approved by the full Senate later Wednesday and then move to the House, where leaders have discussed potentially approving it by unanimous consent, both to speed up the process and protect members from COVID-19 exposure.
“Today, the Senate can get back on track. Today, we can make all of the Washington drama fade away,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). “If we act today, what Americans will remember, and what history will record, is that the Senate did the right thing.”
Democrats contended that they had improved the chamber’s initial package over 48 hours of non-stop negotiations. “ Rather than accept such a fundamentally flawed, partisan bill, Senate Democrats have been working hard on a bipartisan bill with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and President Trump,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said. “I am pleased to report that our hard work has paid off.”
The legislation includes:
- $500 billion in loans for businesses. The sticking point for Democrats was limiting the Trump administration’s control of the loan funds and Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said the bill would provide an inspector general in the Treasury Department to monitor the funds as well as a congressional oversight panel. The bill also prohibits businesses controlled by the president, vice president, members of Congress, and heads of Executive departments from receiving loans or investments. The children, spouses and in-laws are also barred from receiving funds.
- Enhanced unemployment insurance: Unemployment insurance would be increased by $600 per week for four months in addition to what states pay as a base unemployment salary. This benefit also would extend to gig economy workers, freelancers, and furloughed workers
- Expanded funds for hospitals, medical equipment, and health care worker protections: Schumer said the bill will contain $150 billion for hospitals treating coronavirus patients. Of that money, $100 billion will go to hospitals, $1 billion will go to the Indian Health Service, and the remainder will be used to increase medical equipment capacity.
- Increased aid to state and local governments: About $150 billion would be allocated for state and local governments, including $8 billion for tribal governments.
- Direct payments to adults below a certain income threshold: The legislation calls for a one-time $1,200 check for most adults making $75,000 or less annually, according to past tax returns. A $500 payment would also be sent to cover every child in qualifying households.
- Loans to small businesses:There would be $367 billion in the bill aimed at providing loans for small businesses.