With the flood of news conferences, public statements, and proposals bantered back and forth concerning what the federal government is or should be doing about the coronavirus, it may be slightly confusing as to exactly what’s been done, what’s in process and what lies ahead from Congress. Here’s the broad description of what our lawmakers are up to on Capitol Hill.
On March 6, President Trump signed HR 6074 into law, entitled the “Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2020” which provided emergency funding to several federal agencies engaged in the fight against the virus.
On Saturday, March 14 the House of Representatives passed HR 6201, the “Families First Coronavirus Response Act” and on Monday, March 16 the House passed technical corrections for HR 6201. Both the bill and the corrections have been sent to the Senate for approval.
HR 6201’s primary emphasis is on providing relief to families, the elderly and workers by funding nutrition programs and providing paid family leave and sick leave, money for food stamps, and free coronavirus testing for the duration of the national emergency. The Senate is likely to take up the measure immediately.
Also in the works is the president’s economic stimulus package worth $850 billion, which he announced Tuesday. The proposal includes economic help for individuals, businesses and specifically financial help for the hard-hit airline industry. The president charged Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to pursue measures that would provide an immediate form of economic support for families. According to the New York Times, Mnuchin said this could include sending checks directly to Americans within the next two weeks.
Although the idea of a payroll tax holiday had been floated by the Administration over the last week as a vehicle for increasing take-home pay for workers, the president has apparently decided that quicker relief is necessary and this would apparently include non-workers as well. At least one Senate Republican, Mitt Romney (R-UT) has proposed sending a one-time $1,000 check to every American adult.
Senate Democrats are coming up with their own stimulus proposal with different spending priorities than are being discussed by Republicans.
This proposed stimulus bill looks like it will take some time for negotiations to occur and sufficient compromises to be reached to pass both the Republican-controlled Senate and the Democrat-controlled House, and garner the president’s signature.
All sides will be under pressure to pass something quickly to alleviate the growing financial strain on families, businesses and the economy as a whole.