By Dan McCaleb | The Center Square
President Donald Trump on Thursday praised Congress’ work on the latest stimulus relief package that will provide additional funding to small businesses and workers hurt by COVID-19 stay-at-home orders.
As Trump held his daily coronavirus news briefing, the U.S. House voted 388-5 to pass the measure Thursday that will provide $320 billion in relief for the American worker and small businesses.
The Senate passed the bill Tuesday.
“I’ll be signing it probably tonight,” Trump said after being informed of the House vote.
The $484 billion deal includes $320 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program so businesses can continue paying employees. It also includes $60 billion for a small business emergency grant and loan program, $75 billion for hospitals and $25 billion for a new coronavirus testing program. Many governors have said testing needs to be expanded to fully reopen their economies.
Trump added that an additional $350 billion in funding from a stimulus bill passed in late March that improperly went to publicly traded companies and others, like Harvard University, are being returned for redistribution.
Earlier Thursday, new weekly unemployment data released by the U.S. Department of Labor showed 4.4 million additional Americans filed for unemployment benefits in the week ending April 18, bringing the five-week total to 26.4 million unemployment claims. With the latest data, 50 Economy places the real-time unemployment rate at 21.4 percent.
Vice President Mike Pence followed Trump and said 16 states have released plans to slowly begin reopening their economies, including Colorado, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
“We’re encouraged to see so many states release phased reopening plans,” Pence said, noting that they are following federal guidelines to use social distancing and other requirements to keep workers and consumers safe.
“We do believe by early summer we can be a much better place as a nation,” Pence said.
Trump said he wants to see state economies opening up, but by following federal guidelines, which is why he said he disagreed with Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s plan.
“I want the states to open, more than [Kemp] does, much more than he does. But I didn’t like to see spas at this early stage, nor did the doctors,” Trump said, referring to Georgia’s decision to allow fitness centers, barbers, hair salons, nail salons, massage parlors and other businesses to reopen.
Trump also said social distancing guidelines in place until May 1 might be extended.
“We may go beyond that,” Trump said. “Until we feel it’s safe, we are going to be extending.”