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Trump Signs $2.2 Trillion Bipartisan Coronavirus Relief Bill

Coronavirus Relief Bill

The Capitol Building, photo by Shaw Girl

Posted: March 27, 2020 at 5:26 pm   /   by   /   comments (0)

President Donald Trump signed into law a $2.2 trillion emergency relief bill Friday afternoon. The bill was passed unanimously in the Senate and with overwhelming bipartisan support in the House. It will provide aid to workers, small businesses, and corporations hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic and related shutdowns.

The relief bill comes as the US has surpassed every other nation, including Italy and China, in the total number of novel coronavirus cases, reaching nearly 100,000 today. Unemployment has skyrocketed due to social distancing measures and business shutdowns, reaching 3.3 million new unemployment cases filed in the past week.

Stimulus Bill Passes with Bipartisan Support

The bill passed unanimously in the Senate earlier this week, uniting the polarized chamber which has struggled to pass meaningful legislation under Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. McConnel and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer lead the bipartisan collaboration, resulting in a unanimous vote despite some misgivings from both sides.

Senate Republicans pushed to limit the increases to unemployment benefits, while Senate Democrats like Elizabeth Warren successfully pushed to include more oversight for corporate bailout money. 

Friday afternoon, the House successfully passed the same bill with a voice vote following attempts by Representative Thomas Massie of Kentucky to delay the bill with procedural votes. 

Massie opposed the voice vote, which meant that Representatives could vote without having to punch their cards with a simple call of yay or nay. Massie attempted to force a recorded vote, which would mean that Representatives would have to return to Washington to pass the legislation. Many members of Congress are currently in self-isolation and the legislative branch, which has already been exposed to the virus, is practicing social distancing measures. Massie’s attempt to delay the bill failed, however, as leaders on both sides pulled together to achieve quorum and overrule Massie.

President Trump expressed his support for the legislation and signed the bill Friday afternoon at 4 pm.

What’s In the Relief Bill

The bill includes cash payments to individuals, expanded unemployment benefits, money for small businesses and corporations, and more.

Cash payments to individuals

The relief bill will send cash payments of $1,200 per adult and $500 per child 16 and under to individuals making $75,000 or less annually ($150,000 for a couple). The payments decrease for those making more, stopping entirely for single people earning $99,000. This would be a one-time payment, based on either 2019 or 2018 tax returns. 

If your 2018/19 taxes are already on file with the IRS, you will not need to apply to receive the credit. Amounts will be directly deposited into the bank account you have on file, and payments are expected to be delivered within three weeks.

If you have not filed tax returns lately, you should file for 2018 immediately to ensure you receive payment. The payments will not be taxed as income.

Student loan relief

The bill also provides some relief for student loan payers. Wage garnishment is temporarily suspended under the bill (except for child support). The bill also automatically suspends payments for six months for any student loans held by the government. Interest accrual is also suspended during this time period.

Unemployment benefits expansion

The relief bill provides major expansions to unemployment benefits, now covering many more people than were previously eligible. Workers who are unemployed lost hours, or can not work due to coronavirus-related reasons would now be covered, including self-employed workers and gig workers.

The total amount you would receive through this benefit varies by state, however, the bill provides an additional $600 per week on top of the current state benefit. Part-time workers would also be covered, even if their state does not normally provide unemployment for part-time work.

Those who can work due to contracting or being exposed to COVID-19, needing to care for a sick family member, or losing childcare would also qualify under this benefit.

The bill also expands the benefits program by at least 13 weeks in all states.

Other measures

The bill also includes $377 billion in loans to small businesses and $500 billion in loans to corporations. Thanks to the Democrats, the corporate spending will be overseen by an independent committee, and reports will be made to Congress on the spending every 30 days. The bill also includes stipulations preventing corporations from using the money to buy back their own stocks, or increase executive salaries. $100 billion is also allocated to hospitals to aid with the pandemic. 

Also included in the bill is a nationwide moratorium on evictions for any renters in buildings where the landlords have mortgages owned or backed by a federal entity. Some changes have also been made to retirement accounts, like 401(k)s, including a suspension of required minimum distributions. Workers will also be able to withdraw money early from their retirement accounts without the usual penalty, as long as it’s related to COVID-19.

The bill also, controversially, contained payments to national arts and education resources such as Howard University, the Kennedy Center, and NPR.

This bill, labeled Stage 3 of the coronavirus stimulus measures, is not expected to be the last. Politicians on both sides have expressed interest in future stimulus packages to provide further aid to Americans and the economy.

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