Early this morning, March 25, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced that the Senate had finally reached a bipartisan agreement that would make American history. The economic rescue package will be an expansion of a Republican legislative proposal issued last week, the CARES Act, to provide relief to virtually everyone on the U.S. economic ladder.
Senate making history
The plan marks the largest rescue package in American history with its $2 trillion legislation. It covers an array of programs, including direct payments to Americans, an aggressive expansion of unemployment insurance, billions in aid to large and small businesses, and a new wave of significant funding for the healthcare industry.
“Nobody thinks legislation can end this. We cannot outlaw the virus. And no economic policy can fully end the hardship so long as the public health requires that we put so much of our commerce on ice,” McConnell said Wednesday, March 25. “It is emergency relief. Emergency relief. That’s what this is.”
The emergency relief package
- The plan will rush financial assistance to Americans with direct checks of a rumored $1,200 to households in the middle class and in lower income levels, among other payments.
- An extended unemployment insurance program for laid-off workers that will allow for four months of “full pay,” rather than the usual three months for most. It will also raise the maximum unemployment insurance benefit by $600 per week. It will apply to traditional workers for small and large businesses as well as those who are self-employed and workers in the gig economy, which Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer has dubbed as, “unemployment insurance on steroids.”
- More than $150 billion for the healthcare system, including funding for hospitals, research, treatment, and the Strategic National Stockpile will be given to raise supplies of ventilators, masks, and other equipment. Of that, $100 billion will go directly to hospitals and the health system. In addition, $1 billion will be given to the Indian Health Service.
- $150 billion will be aided to state and local governments to address spending shortages related to COVID-19.
- Finally, $350 billion will go to the aid of small businesses impacted by the pandemic in the form of loans. It should be noted that some of these loans could be forgiven in the future.
The Senate is expected to vote on the bill relatively quickly after the procedural vote Wednesday, but leaders are still negotiating timing. The Democratic caucus is, “committed to giving House Members 24 hours’ notice before the House acts,” as was stated by Minority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-MD. “We’re going to take up and pass this package to care for those who are now caring for us, and help carry millions of Americans through these dark economic times,” Schumer added.
As for the attitude of our bipartisan government, much like President Trump, McConnell used a military analogy in describing how our nation should be confronting the coronavirus by saying that we are living a, “strange new reality that has forced our nation onto something like wartime footing. A fight has arrived on our shores. We did not seek it. We did not want it. But now we’re going to win it.”