The Families First Coronavirus Response Act has passed, and it’s on it’s way to Trump’s desk for signature. Last Friday after midnight, when the House passed the bill, this looked like a big deal. In the racing tragedy that is the coronavirus epidemic, this legislation now seems relatively small.
The bill expands Medicaid and unemployment benefits, orders free coronavirus testing, and mandates paid sick leave and childcare leave — but only for certain employees. The bill as originally passed by the House late Friday was scaled back on Monday to appease and garner the votes of some Senate Republicans in the Senate (some of whom still voted against it today — see list below).
Since this bill was drafted, through negotiations between Secretary of the Treasury Mnuchin and House Speaker Pelosi last week, we learned of a confidential federal plan for dealing with the pandemic that projects it will continue for 18 months with cases coming in waves. Yesterday, the Treasury Secretary told Senators that unemployment could reach 20%. Both of those factors — as well as public outcry over the Senate dragging its feet on the bill — may have lead to its final passage today.
Those influences also are about to bring us a new bill — with much larger financial impact. This bill is aimed at economic stabilization and the package would send direct payments to taxpayers and provide loans to businesses. An outline of the new package under negotiation between the House, Senate, and Mnuchin calls for a total of $1 trillion in spending, which would also include $50 billion for secured loans for the airline industry and another $150 billion for secured loans or loan guarantees for other parts of the economy. The Treasury Department proposal calls for two rounds of checks sent directly to American taxpayers on April 6 and May 18. Payments would depend on the recipient’s income and family size. Each round would disburse $250 billion. The proposal It would allow the Exchange Stabilization Fund, an emergency reserve account that is usually used for currency market interventions, to be tapped to cover those costs, and also temporarily guarantee money-market mutual funds. (Source: NYTimes, live updates on coronavirus — available outside the paywall.)
The Republican senators who voted “no” today —Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, James Inhofe and James Lankford of Oklahoma, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Ben Sasse of Nebraska, Tim Scott of South Carolina and Mike Lee of Utah cited fears about the bill’s impact on small businesses. The answer to that is to move on to the next bill FAST.
Stay alert to progress on the next bill and be prepared to contact Congress to show your support.