On Friday, President Donald Trump signed into a law a massive stimulus package intended to help Americans withstand the financial fallout of the ongoing coronavirus crisis.
The stimulus package totals more than $2 trillion. It includes provisions to make cash payments to most American adults, as well as billions of dollars in assistance for the unemployed. Alongside individual benefits, the law provides extraordinary assistance for hard-hit hospitals and health care providers. Additionally, struggling businesses will have access to a $500 billion loan pool.
The bill, put together within days, passed through the Senate and House with bipartisan support. It survived several last-minute hang-ups, including Republican opposition to the scope of its unemployment benefits.
And on Friday, legislators from both parties were enraged by Kentucky Rep. Thomas Massie’s demand that the stimulus bill be subject to a full roll call vote—a move that forced representatives, including those who’d already left Capitol Hill, to travel to back to Washington, D.C. While lawmakers were able to establish a quorum and override Massie’s motion, they had to do so in person.
Despite hard negotiations and Massie’s potentially dangerous demands, President Trump praised Congress for quickly constructing a relief package.
“I want to thank Democrats and Republicans for coming together and putting America first,” Trump said, expressing confidence in a “tremendous rebound” for the economy.
According to Business Insider, the $2 trillion package is the largest stimulus assembled and passed in American history. Every U.S. resident with a Social Security Number and recent tax filings will be eligible to receive up to $1,200 in direct cash assistance, with pay-outs tapering off for people with more than $75,000 in individual earnings (or $150,000 for joint-filing couples). Republicans had initially tried to prevent low-income earners from receiving checks, but were countered and blocked by their liberal colleagues.
The law also provides unprecedented unemployment assistance to workers who’ve lost their jobs or are unable to work because of coronavirus. Workers already receiving state unemployment benefits will receive an additional $600 per week for up to four months. Notably, the legislation provides for the creation of a separate unemployment fund for people who wouldn’t normally qualify for state-level benefits, including self-employed workers and contractors.
While the additional $600 per week will be provided by the federal government, pandemic assistance will likely be rendered and administered by state-level unemployment agencies. And, all across the countries, unemployment offices have found themselves under-staffed and unequipped to deal with the unprecedented number of claims.
The bill also provides other forms of relief, such as forcing private insurers to cover coronavirus treatments and vaccinations, if and when one becomes available; it also mandates free infecting testing.
On the more controversial side, the law sets aside about a half-trillion in loans and grants for big corporations. NPR notes that companies will be required to pay the government back, with their expenditures subject to public disclosures and limited oversight (a move which Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell—a Kentucky Republican—initially opposed).
While the bill is now a law, it’s unclear when, exactly, Americans will begin receiving stimulus funds. Direct payments aren’t expected to arrive for at least three weeks. Unemployment benefits are supposed to be retroactive to the end of January, but many states have yet to reconfigure their application portals to permit self-employed workers and contractors to apply for benefits.
In all probability, the timeline for relief will be more apparent in the coming week, with many assistance programs expected to gear up for the 1st of April.
Attached below is the full text of H.R. 748–also known as the CARES Act–signed into law by President Trump on Friday: