April 23, 2020
Congressional leaders struck a deal with the White House on April 21 to send hundreds of billion of dollars in extra aid to small businesses and hospitals—replenishing funding to help Main Street America survive amid the twin economic and public health crises created by the coronavirus pandemic, The Wall Street Journal reported.
The Senate on Tuesday evening passed the $484 billion bill by a voice vote , sending it to the House for an approval expected Thursday. President Trump said on Twitter he supported the legislation, and he is expected to sign it when it reaches his desk.
The package, which lawmakers dubbed an interim emergency bill, also includes funding to ramp up the country’s testing for the new coronavirus—but, the Journal noted, does not include funding sought by Democrats for hard-hit state and local budgets, which instead was pushed off to the next round of stimulus negotiations.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell signaled that concerns over the mounting debt would play a bigger role in talks about future stimulus aid—setting up a sharp divide with Democrats worried that Congress has done far from enough.
Congress has operated in emergency mode during the outbreak, last month passing a $2.2 trillion package by consensus with minimal debate. Amid growing pressure from rank-and-file members, House leaders agreed Tuesday to hold a vote later this week on allowing proxy voting, which would allow members to cast votes without meeting in person.
The agreement reached Tuesday caps a brief but bitter fight over funding for the Paycheck Protection Program, a highly sought-after small-business loan fund that both parties wanted to see replenished after it depleted its initial $350 billion allocation last week. \
Lawmakers sparred for nearly two weeks over what else should be funded in the relief package, with the GOP pushing to quickly pour more funds into the small-business program and Democrats holding out for money for hospitals, testing, food stamps and state and local governments, the Journal said.
In addition to the small-business aid, the bill includes $75 billion for hospitals and $25 billion for testing—two areas where Republicans said the need for funding grew more apparent over recent days.
The $25 billion in funds for manufacturing and purchasing tests will provide $11 billion to states and localities to administer tests and conduct contact tracing. Up to $1 billion can be used to cover costs for testing people without health insurance, while $1 billion will go toward the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for surveillance measures, including contact tracing.
Hospitals and health-care providers will receive $75 billion in aid under the legislation to help them cover revenue shortfalls and fund response to the pandemic. That funding builds on the $100 billion in the $2.2 trillion relief bill passed last month provided for health care providers, some $70 billion of which hasn’t yet been distributed.
The Secretary of Health and Human Services will disburse the funds to eligible health-care providers that are treating people with coronavirus. The money can be used to build temporary structures and purchase personal protective equipment, among other purposes.
Democrats said they would press for state and local funding in negotiations already under way over the next, broader relief bill. McConnell said that next round of legislation should wait until lawmakers can safely come back to Washington to craft the next bill and signaled the accumulated cost of coronavirus relief would influence his position.
Research contact: @WSJ