WASHINGTON — A $2 trillion bill to aid workers, health care providers and businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic became law Friday.
Approval by the U.S. House Friday was followed by President Donald Trump signing the measure, paving the way for financial relief for taxpayers and businesses.
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.
Rep. Abby Finkenauer, D-Iowa, spoke on the House floor ahead of the vote Friday. “Just moments ago, before I got up here to speak, I found out we lost another two Iowans to coronavirus, now up to three, all in my congressional district,” she said.
“Today, we are grieving losses all over our country and the globe, where tragically, necessary caution came too late,” Finkenauer said. “The package we’re considering today is not perfect, it will not bring folks back that we lost, but it will give much-needed relief to our hospital systems and workers on the front lines and to our working families and small businesses across the country. God bless the United States of America.”
Rep. Cindy Axne, an Iowa Democrat, said in a statement she was “proud that Congress has passed this bipartisan legislation to help get relief and additional resources directly to those who are feeling the burden of this coronavirus outbreak.”
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, depending on income, 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.