Trump signs behemoth $2T COVID-19 response bill after it clears U.S. House

By: - March 27, 2020 1:55 pm

Georgia’s U.S. Senators voted for a GOP police reform bill Wednesday that was blocked by Democrats because they said it fails to adequately respond to police brutality against people of color. A Democratic police reform bill pending in the U.S. House, unlike the GOP bill, would ban chokeholds or no-knock warrants at the federal level and make it easier for victims of police brutality to sue officers. Drew Angerer/Getty Images

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump signed a $2 trillion bill Friday intended to aid workers, health care providers and businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic soon after it cleared the U.S. House earlier in the day.

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.

Rep. Buddy Carter, a Republican who represents a Georgia coastal district, said the country finds itself in “uncharted waters.” He added, “none of us have ever experienced anything like this before.”

Carter has spent the last two weeks in his home district, where he’s seen “people who are concerned, concerned about their health, concerned about their future,” he said. But he’s also seen “people pulling together,” he added, volunteering at food banks and risking their own health to deliver services to others.

“I’ve seen the best of America as well,” Carter said. The bill passed by the House isn’t perfect, he said. “If I had an opportunity, I’d change a number of things in it. But it is what we need to do.” He added, “More than anything, what we need to do is we need to pray.”

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.

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Robin Bravender
Robin Bravender

Robin Bravender is the D.C. Bureau Chief for States Newsroom, a network of nonprofit news publications, including the Georgia Recorder. Previously, Robin was a reporter for Politico, E&E News and Thomson Reuters.