Just before midnight on Wednesday, by a vote of 96-0, the Senate passed a massive $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus compromise package, ending days of deadlock. The bill now goes to the House of Representatives, which House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said will soon take up the historic measure to bring relief to individuals, small businesses, and larger corporations “with strong bipartisan support.”
The historic measure mostly earned praise from lawmakers in both parties and their leaders, who said the sweeping bill will address the most serious of the economic and health consequences of the coronavirus outbreak with a huge injection of federal dollars and lending capacity.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, a Maryland Democrat, told lawmakers late Wednesday that the House would pass the measure by voice vote on Friday, which means they would not have to return to Washington.
Republicans have apparently lined up their rank and file to agree to the terms. “Members who want to come to the House Floor to debate this bill will be able to do so. In addition, we are working to ensure that those who are unable to return to Washington may express their views on this legislation remotely. My office will send out information tomorrow with those details,” Hoyer said.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said massive layoffs caused by “shelter-in-place” orders had brought the economy to a standstill.
“This strange new reality has forced our nation onto something like a wartime footing,” McConnell said. “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.”
McConnell, in his closing speech before the vote, announced the Senate would shutter until April 20, with only pro forma sessions taking place, unless there is a need for lawmakers to return sooner.
The 880-page legislation is the largest economic relief bill in U.S. history.
The package would provide one-time direct payments to Americans of $1,200 per adult making up to $75,000 a year, and $2,400 to married couples making up to $150,000, with $500 payments per child. After a $75,000 threshold for individuals, the benefit would be reduced by $5 for each $100 the taxpayer makes. A similar $150,000 threshold applies to couples, and a $112,500 threshold for heads of households.
The legislation passed by the Senate will use 2019 tax returns, if available, or 2018 tax returns to assess income for determining how much direct financial aid individuals receive. Those who did not file tax returns can use a Form SSA-1099, Social Security Benefit Statement or Form RRB-1099, a Social Security Equivalent Benefit Statement.
Further, the bill allocates $250 billion to extend unemployment insurance to more workers, and lengthen the duration to 39 weeks, up from the normal 26 weeks. $600 extra a week would be provided for four months.
The final package would additionally provide $349 billion in loans to small businesses — and money spent on rent, payroll and utilities becomes grants that don’t need to be paid back. Many hotels would qualify as small businesses under the plan.
The bill omits many — though not all – of the items from Pelosi’s version of the legislation that Republicans had called wasteful or irrelevant, including climate-change-related emissions restrictions for airlines and various diversity-related provisions.