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Behemoth $2T COVID-19 response bill clears U.S. House; Trump signs into law
A $2 trillion bill to aid workers, health care providers and businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic is poised to become law following its passage in the U.S. House on Friday.
Many House members reconvened in Washington to approve the 880-page measure, which stands to be the largest economic aid package in U.S. history. The chamber passed the measure using a “voice vote” typically used for uncontroversial measures, despite the objection of one House Republican, Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky, who attempted to force a recorded vote.
The massive bill — which would expand unemployment insurance, send direct checks to many Americans and offer financial aid to industries — cleared the U.S. Senate earlier this week. President Donald Trump said Wednesday that he would “sign it immediately.”
No one loves the final package, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle insisted as they spoke on the House floor ahead of Friday’s vote. Still, most of them were willing to stomach provisions they disliked, arguing that acting swiftly to combat the public health and economic crisis was their top priority.
Among the bill’s key provisions:
A dramatic increase in unemployment insurance benefits. That would include about $600 per person per week in federal money, which would be in addition to what people get from states.
Direct checks of $1,200 per person for many adults and $500 for dependent children. The Washington Post created a stimulus payment calculator.
Forgivable loans for small businesses to cover payroll and other business costs.
A $500 billion loan program that would aid airlines and other large industries impacted by the crisis.
$150 billion in aid for states and local governments.
$100 billion for emergency funding for hospitals.
Lawmakers in both the House and Senate have stressed that additional response legislation will be necessary, but that they sought to quickly infuse cash into the health care system and the economy.
“As we first work to combat the public health emergency at hand, it’s important to keep families, businesses and the economy operating as normally as possible,” Colorado Rep. Ed Perlmutter said in a statement. “This stabilization package is the third in a series of efforts to try and do just that, however more will be needed. I am confident Congress will work together to meet the emerging needs in the weeks to come.”
His Republican colleague, Ken Buck, disagreed. Buck, who has consistently criticized the costs of the emergency relief measures as well how the money would be spent, spoke in opposition to the bill on the House floor.
The nation is “facing an unprecedented emergency, one tied to the nefarious actions of China,” he said. “However, as President Trump said, we cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself.”
Rep. Joe Neguse, a Democrat from Boulder, said the bill is far from perfect.
“But let us be clear about one thing: The American people need relief now. Not tomorrow, not next week, not next month. Now. And so the question before this chamber is very simple: Will we step up for the American people?”Content originally published by the Colorado Independent on March 27, 2020.