The U.S. Capitol dome is pictured ahead of a vote on the additional funding for the coronavirus stimulus economic relief plan, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Washington, April 21, 2020.
Tom Brenner | Reuters
The House plans to pass a $484 billion coronavirus relief bill Thursday to replenish a small business aid program, fund hospitals and expand testing.
Congress will pile more money into an unprecedented rescue of the economy and health care system that will approach $3 trillion in total with the plan’s passage. The cash injection into the small business loan program, designed to keep employees on payroll during the pandemic, will follow a government report Thursday showing more than 26 million people filed unemployment insurance claims over the latest five-week period.
The bill the House plans to pass Thursday includes:
- $310 billion in new funds for the so-called Paycheck Protection Program, which gives small firms loans that could be forgiven if they use them on wages, benefits, rent and utilities. Within that pool, $60 billion will specifically go to small lenders, a priority Democrats pushed for after they blocked a $250 billion funding bill earlier this month.
- $60 billion for Small Business Administration disaster assistance loans and grants
- $75 billion in grants to hospitals overwhelmed by a rush of Covid-19 patients
- $25 billion to bolster coronavirus testing, a core piece of any plan to restart the U.S. economy
The proposal came together after days of talks between the Trump administration and Democrats, who sought money for hospitals and state and local governments on top of the small business aid. The GOP accused Democrats of harming companies and workers by rejecting a plan to put more money into the $350 billion program in the days before the funding dried up.
While the government has committed all of the small business aid from the earlier package, it is unclear how much it has delivered to businesses during a tumultuous program rollout.
Democrats did not secure aid for states and municipalities in this week’s legislation. While both they and Trump have said they want to include grants in the next relief legislation, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday he would rather let states declare bankruptcy than send them more federal aid.
House members, who traveled back to Washington for the vote Thursday, met at 10 a.m. After debate, representatives will take two votes in the afternoon.
The first is on whether to set up a select subcommittee on the coronavirus crisis. The panel would oversee the Trump administration’s response to the pandemic, and specifically how it uses a $500 billion pool of money for corporations, states and municipalities created as part of the $2 trillion rescue plan last month.
After considering whether to create the committee, the House will move to passage of the nearly $500 billion relief bill. It scrapped a plan to vote on a rules change to allow lawmakers to vote remotely through a proxy if they cannot get to the Capitol during the pandemic. The House has studied various methods of how to safely legislate from outside of Washington after a handful of representatives tested positive for Covid-19.
For now, the chamber plans to carry out votes in small groups to reduce infection risks, which means the voting process will take longer. Lawmakers will go to the floor in 10-minute blocks Thursday in groups based on alphabetical order.
Between the votes on creating the committee and passing the bill, the House will recess for a half hour for cleaning.
House members shared photos of themselves traveling to Washington, donning face coverings in nearly empty airports and planes.
Rep. Ben McAdams, a Utah Democrat and one of the lawmakers who recovered from Covid-19, showed security lines with virtually no passengers in them.
Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, wrote, “I’ve never seen the airport so empty.”