WASHINGTON — A $2 trillion bill to aid workers, health care providers and businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic is poised to become law following its passage in the U.S. House on Friday.
Many House members reconvened in Washington to approve the 880-page measure, which stands to be the largest economic aid package in U.S. history. The chamber passed the measure using a “voice vote” typically used for uncontroversial measures, despite the objection of one House Republican, Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky, who attempted to force a recorded vote.
The massive bill — which would expand unemployment insurance, send direct checks to many Americans and offer financial aid to industries — cleared the U.S. Senate earlier this week. President Donald Trump said Wednesday that he would “sign it immediately.”
No one loves the final package, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle insisted as they spoke on the House floor ahead of Friday’s vote. Still, most of them were willing to stomach provisions they disliked, arguing that acting swiftly to combat the public health and economic crisis was their top priority.
Among the bill’s key provisions:
- A dramatic increase in unemployment insurance benefits. That would include about $600 per person per week in federal money, which would be in addition to what people get from states.
- Direct checks of $1,200 per person for many adults and $500 for dependent children. The Washington Post created a stimulus payment calculator.
- Forgivable loans for small businesses to cover payroll and other business costs.
- A $500 billion loan program that would aid airlines and other large industries impacted by the crisis.
- $150 billion in aid for states and local governments.
- $100 billion for emergency funding for hospitals.
Lawmakers in both the House and Senate have stressed that additional response legislation will be necessary, but that they sought to quickly infuse cash into the health care system and the economy.
“We do know that we must do more … this cannot be our final bill,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Friday ahead of the bill’s passage. She said that state and local governments, as well as health care systems, will require more financial support.
In a statement, U.S. Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon, D-5th District, noted that the “the final version of the CARES Act passed by the Senate is a dramatic improvement over the partisan slush fund [Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell] initially introduced.
“This is not a perfect bill. But it will deliver desperately needed resources directly to my constituents, establish strong oversight on big companies receiving taxpayer funded grants or loans, and help our health care workers get the protection they need on the front lines of this pandemic,” Scanlon said.
U.S. Rep. Dwight Evans, D-3rd District, also noted that the bill “isn’t perfect but urgent action is needed to prevent a second Great Depression. People and businesses in Philadelphia and across the country need help now. And this bill includes many critical priorities I and Democratic colleagues fought for.”
U.S. Rep. Madeleine Dean, whose Montgomery County-based 4th District has been hard hit by the pandemic, called the bill an “unprecedented” measure that will “send relief and confidence to those who are suffering.”
Pennsylvania’s Republican House members also offered praise for the bill, though some were more measured than others.
“The coronavirus emanated from China is here. We can’t stop that. We can’t go back. But I’m distressed by the Hobson’s choice that we have,” U.S. Rep. Scott Perry, R-10th District, said. “It is ravaging our communities; it is ravaging our health care system; it is ravaging our economy. And we should be solely focused on healing our communities and saving the small businesses, the big businesses, the economy that makes America great. So as we discuss this and also discuss a fourth, yet another package, no more Hobson’s choice, no more billion-dollar bailouts for things that are unrelated.”
In a statement, U.S. Rep. Fred Keller, R-12th District, said he was pleased the bill provided assistance to small business owners who have been hard hit by the pandemic.
“As an early advocate for substantial small business relief in Phase 3 relief legislation, I was pleased to see many of the provisions in the CARES Act that address small business concerns,” Joyce said. “The significant and immediate relief for small businesses and employees in the CARES Act will help ensure they can weather this crisis and our economy can recover quickly.
U.S. Rep. John Joyce, R-13th District, offered a similar sentiment, saying the bill “will provide immediate income for American families in the face of this crisis. It also will sustain small businesses during this unprecedented pause by helping them make payroll and keep their workers employed.”