The U.S. Capitol. (Credit: Toni Smith, USGS. Public domain
WASHINGTON — A $2 trillion bill to aid workers, health care providers and businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic passed the U.S. House on Friday and was signed by President Donald Trump.
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.
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.
“America is bleeding. America is in deep suffering and even deeper anxiety,” said U.S. Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Fairfax. “We have no time to dither, we have no time to engage in ideological or petty partisan fights. Our country needs us as one.”
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.
“It wasn’t so long ago that our country experienced an event that would bring Americans together to fight a common enemy and help those in need,” said U.S. Rep. Denver Riggleman, R-Nelson. “On Sept. 11, 2001, America experienced the worst acts of terrorism in its history. The resolve and patriotism I felt that day as a war fighter is so very similar to the resolve and patriotism I feel today.”
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