Congress' $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package is the rare legislative agreement that will have an immediate — and lasting — impact on ordinary citizens across the country.
Why it matters: The 883-page bill, titled the "CARES Act," includes thousands of dollars in direct payments to most Americans, and huge loan packages designed to help keep small businesses and corporations afloat.
Here's what's in the bill:
- Direct payments: Americans will receive a one-time direct deposit of up to $1,200, and married couples will get $2,400, plus an additional $500 per child. The payments will be available for incomes up to $75,000 for individuals and $150,000 for married couples. This is true even for those who have no income, rely on Social Security benefits, or whose income comes entirely from non-taxable, means-tested benefit programs.
- Use of retirement funds: The bill waives the 10% early withdrawal penalty for distributions up to $100,000 for coronavirus-related purposes, retroactive to Jan. 1.
- Small businesses: $350 billion is being dedicated to prevent layoffs and business closures while workers have to stay home during the outbreak. Companies with 500 employees or fewer that maintain their payroll during coronavirus can receive up to 8 weeks of cash-flow assistance. If employers maintain payroll, the portion of the loans used for covered payroll costs, interest on mortgage obligations, rent, and utilities would be forgiven.
- The unemployed: The program's $250 billion extended unemployment insurance program — "unemployment on steroids," as Sen. Chuck Schumer calls it — expands eligibility and offers workers an additional $600 per week for four months, on top of what state programs pay. It also extends UI benefits through Dec. 31 for eligible workers. The deal applies to the self-employed, independent contractors and gig economy workers.
- Hospitals and health care: The deal provides over $140 billion in appropriations to support the U.S. health system, $100 billion of which will be injected directly into hospitals. The rest will be dedicated to providing personal and protective equipment for health care workers, testing supplies, increased workforce and training, accelerated Medicare payments, and supporting the CDC, among other health investments.
- Coronavirus testing: All testing and potential vaccines for COVID-19 will be covered at no cost to patients.
- Large corporations: $500 billion will be allotted to provide loans, loan guarantees, and other investments, overseen by a Treasury Department inspector general. These loans will not exceed five years and cannot be forgiven.
- Airlines will receive $50 billion (of the $500 billion) for passenger air carriers, and $8 billion for cargo air carriers.
- Payroll taxes: The measure allows individuals to delay the payment of their 2020 payroll taxes until 2021 and 2022
- States and local governments will get $150 billion, with $8 billion set aside for tribal governments.
- Agriculture: The deal would increase the amount the Agriculture Department can spend on its bailout program from $30 billion to $50 billion, according to a press release issued by Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.)
The timing: The Senate passed the bill late Wednesday night.
- House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer says the House plans to vote on the package via a voice vote on Friday. This gives members who wish to debate the bill in person the option to do so, while also enabling those unable to return to Washington during coronavirus an option to stay in their home districts If you’re not signed up for this newsletter, change that by clicking this link.
- Not so good for GOP stuffing the bill with abortion rstrictions :
- A hard-fought battle over abortion raged just beneath the surface of the Senate’s $2 trillion coronavirus economic rescue plan. And it looks like Republicans won. Provisions tucked into the fine print of the 880-page bill approved by the Senate Thursday take direct aim at Planned Parenthood, the reproductive healthcare provider and eternal GOP target over its role providing abortions. Those details make it harder for the group to shelter itself from the economic storm unleashed by the coronavirus pandemic, which has already profoundly disrupted the American healthcare system.
- The bill — which is expected to pass the House of Representatives as soon as today — makes it much more difficult, if not outright impossible, for Planned Parenthood to access a new massive $350 billion lending program aimed at stabilizing the U.S. economy in the midst of the historic downturn, according to experts who spoke with VICE News.
- “Anti-choice activists in Congress and the White House used a pandemic response to target sexual and reproductive healthcare and its providers,” said Clare Coleman, president and CEO of the National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association. “It is wholly disappointing that Congress failed to support the entirety of the nation’s public health infrastructure.”
- The bill puts President Trump’s Small Business Authority in charge of overseeing who gets the money — including deciding whether Planned Parenthood qualifies. Nonprofits with fewer than 500 employees can receive loans, but the SBA gets to rule on whether the dozens of individual Planned Parenthood affiliates scattered around the country should be counted by themselves or as a whole, according to experts who reviewed the bill.
- The bill also includes language that blocks state and local governments from allocating coronavirus rescue funds to cover abortion services.