The U.S. Senate passed the $2 trillion emergency relief legislation in an attempt to stabilize the country’s economy destroyed by the ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Late Wednesday night, the Senate unanimously (96-0) approved the “Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act” or the “CARES Act” after intense negotiations between senators and the White House. This is the third emergency funding legislation in response to the devastating crisis.
He added that the “Senate stepped up” to help struggling Americans pay their bills, businesses to keep their operations and avoid lay-offs and provide more funding to hospitals to buy supplies and equipment needed by healthcare workers to care for sick people.
In his remarks before the vote, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said, “Combating this disease has forced our country to put huge parts of national life on pause and triggered layoffs at a breathtaking pace. This strange new reality has forced our nation onto something like a wartime footing. A fight has arrived on our shores. We did not seek it. We did not want it. But now, we are going to win it.”
Furthermore, McConnell said, “This is not even a stimulus package. It is emergency relief.”
After the vote, the Senate Majority Leader said, “This is a proud moment for the United States Senate and for the country, and we’re going to win this battle in the very near future.”
What’s included in the CARES Act?
The CARES Act provides direct assistance to families and workers through recovery checks. Individual taxpayers are eligible to receive $1,200 while married couples filing jointly are eligible for up to $2,400. Those with children are eligible for an extra $500 for every child.
People without income and or receiving Social Security income are also eligible to receive recovery checks. The emergency relief is focused on people who really need it the most.
Eligibility for the recovery checks is reduced starting at $75,000 in income for individuals and $150,000 in income for couples filing jointly.
Individuals with income more than $99,000 and joint filers with more than $198,000 are ineligible. Eligibility is based on 2019 tax returns or 2018 tax returns if the 2019 return has not yet been filed.
The CARES Act also strengthens and expands the unemployment insurance for workers who are unable to work due to coronavirus.
The bill will add $600 per week to the normal unemployment benefits received to unemployed workers. The additional federal assistance will last for up to four months. After that, unemployed workers will receive their normal benefit amount for an additional 13 weeks. Therefore, they will receive unemployment benefits for up to 39 weeks.
The self-employed, independent contractors, gig workers, and others will be qualified to obtain unemployment benefits.
In a tweet, Arindrajit Dube, an economics professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst explained that people who didn’t qualify for unemployment insurance in the past will receive 50% of the average benefit provided by their state plus $600 per week.
The CARES Act also allows students to postpone their student loan payments for 6 months and keep their Pell grants.
For small businesses, the legislation provides almost $350 billion in federally guaranteed loans through the Paycheck Protection Program. The loan is focused on small businesses that maintain their payroll during the coronavirus emergency. The loans will be forgiven if small businesses maintain their payroll.
The CARES Act provides a $340 billion increase in emergency funding to fight the coronavirus pandemic. It includes $100 billion for hospitals and healthcare providers, $16 billion to purchase personal protective equipment (PPEs), ventilators and other medical supplies for federal and state response efforts, and $11 billion for vaccines, therapeutics, diagnostics, and other preparedness needs. The bill also includes $4.3 billion for the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), $45 billion for the FEMA disaster relief fund, and $19 billion for the Department of Veterans Affairs to support increased demand for health care services at VA facilities.
The House is expected to approve the Cares Act by voice vote on Friday since the majority of the representatives are already in their home districts.
President Donald Trump said he will immediately sign the bill once Congress approves it and sends it to his desk.