By Dan McCaleb | The Center Square
President Donald Trump signed a $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill Friday just hours after it passed in the House, making law out of a package that will send billions of dollars directly to Americans and provide hundreds of billions more for businesses, health care systems and others impacted by the pandemic that has crippled the economy.
It is by far the largest relief package in the nation’s history.
“I want to thank you, Republicans and Democrats, for coming together and putting America first,” Trump said before signing, when he added, “I’ve never signed anything with a ‘T’ on it,” referring to the trillions of dollars of spending.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, standing behind Trump, thanked Republicans and Democrats in both the House and the Senate for their work.
“This is a proud moment for our country,” McConnell said.
A voice vote in the House early Friday afternoon was overwhelmingly in favor of passage. U.S. Rep. Thomas Massey of Kentucky requested an official roll call, but he was overruled. No official roll call was taken.
The measure passed 96-0 in the Senate late Wednesday.
“This is a very special day for us,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said at a news conference after the House vote. “I think it sends a very clear message to the American people; to America’s families gathered in their homes; to all of the health care workers working to bring solace minister to the needs of people who need their help; to the families who lost a loved one.”
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California joined Pelosi at the news conference.
“To the American public, we hear you and we’re working for you,” McCarthy said. “To those who are on the front line in the medical community, we cannot thank you enough.”
The stimulus package includes $250 billion in direct payments to Americans depending on their income, $250 billion in expanded unemployment insurance benefits, $350 billion in guaranteed small business loans that can be forgiven if businesses continue to pay employees, and $500 billion in loans for businesses negatively impacted by the pandemic.
It also includes $140 billion for hospitals and other health care providers.
Assuming Trump’s signature, the legislation will provide payments of $1,200 to each adult and $500 to each child younger than 17, depending on a household’s 2019 income. A married couple with children could receive up to $3,400.
The payments start to phase out for individuals with an income of $75,000 or more, or an income of $150,000 for couples filing jointly. Individuals making more than $99,000 or couples earning more than $198,000 would not be eligible.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called for the Trump administration to send the payments to individuals and families electronically to speed the process. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has said most people will get their payments within three weeks.
The unemployment enhancements will send an extra $600 a week for up to four months in addition to state unemployment benefits. Nearly 3.3 million Americans filed unemployment claims last week, a record number as businesses considered nonessential were forced to shut down to help slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Self employed individuals, including freelancers and gig workers such as Uber drivers, will be elligible.
Another $500 billion in loans will be made available to struggling governments and industries including airlines, states and cities. Airlines will receive $29 billion in grants and $29 billion in loans and loan guarantees.
Payment on student loans held by the federal government will be suspended until Sept. 30.
The legislation also places a 120-day moratorium on evictions for renters whose landlords have mortgages backed by federal agencies.
Critics say the package includes unnecessary pork spending unrelated to the coronavirus, including $25 million would still be allocated for the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
Pelosi said this will not be the final congressional response to the crisis.