In a unanimous vote, the Senate finally reached a compromise and approved a nearly $2 trillion emergency spending bill to help consumers and businesses cope with the economic damage from the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The measure now heads to the House, where a vote -- and approval -- is expected by Friday. Here are some of the main provisions of the bill:
Direct payments to individuals
The bill calls for spending $301 billion in direct payments to the American people. It breaks down largely the way it did in earlier drafts of the legislation, with households receiving up to $1,200 per adult and $500 per child.
However, the bill dictates that consumers who earn more money will receive less. The payments begin to be reduced at $75,000 of annual adjusted gross income, and they aren’t available at all for top wage earners.
The money will come from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in the form of an extra tax refund since the IRS already has everyone’s income data and can get the money flowing quickly.
Expands unemployment benefits
Congress will spend $250 billion to increase the amount of unemployment checks, extend the time period they can be received, and cover more workers.
Instead of 26 weeks, people put out of a job by the pandemic will receive benefits for up to 39 weeks if needed. The measure increases the payment by $600 a week for the first four months.
In addition to covering payroll employees who lose their jobs, the measure takes the gig economy into consideration. Independent contractors and freelancers are also eligible for benefits.
Small business loans
Small businesses will get a $349 billion lifeline in the form of small business loans. To sweeten the deal even more, loans used to pay rent, utilities, and payroll won’t have to be repaid if the business meets certain conditions.
Specific industries, such as the nation’s airlines, have been devastated by the coronavirus, with more pain likely to come in the future. Congress will spend part of a $500 billion tranche to provide loans and loan guarantees to airlines and other industries deemed critical to national security.
Airlines and cargo carriers will receive $29 billion to help them make up for the loss of business. In addition, they’ll get up to $39 billion to cover employees’ wages.
State and municipal governments are struggling with a dramatic loss in tax revenue while still providing services. The measure sends $150 billion to states, with larger states in terms of population getting the most.
In the case of states with large cities, those cities will get a slice of the state’s funding directly, without having to apply to the state.
Congress has set aside $340 billion in supplemental spending. Of that amount, $117 billion will go to the nation’s hospitals, including Veterans Administration facilities. Both have been on the front lines as health care professionals have tried to care for the growing number of COVID-19 cases.
The massive bill also contains provisions to help farmers, support mass transit, and bolster pharmaceutical researchers seeking treatments and vaccines.