WASHINGTON — A $2 trillion bill to aid workers, health care providers and businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic became law following its passage in the U.S. House and signing by President Donald Trump 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. 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.
Republican Ohio U.S. Rep. Brad Wenstrup said on the floor Americans are “suffering in the face of an unseen enemy, a natural disaster that we can only defeat together.
“This bill is not perfect, but it does provide emergency relief legislation that helps our health care workers, our hospitals, our businesses with liquidity and helps our workers to keep them on the payroll as well as helping Americans most in need,” he said.
Democratic Ohio U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan said in a statement he was proud to support the legislation.
“At this time of uncertainty, this legislation will ensure that workers, their families, and their businesses have the resources they need for their economic survival,” Ryan said. “This legislation will also ensure that every American has access to needed health resources throughout this unprecedented crisis.”
Robin Bravender is the Washington, D.C. Bureau Chief for States Newsroom, a network of nonprofit news publications, including the Ohio Capital Journal. Previously, Robin was a reporter for Politico, E&E News and Thomson Reuters.