Washington update: Behemoth $2T COVID-19 response bill becomes law (Updated)

WASHINGTON — A $2 trillion bill to aid workers, health care providers and businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic passed the U.S. House and was signed into law by President Trump on Friday.

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. President Donald Trump said Wednesday that he would “sign it immediately.”

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 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.

Among the North Carolina House members to weight in were Republicans Richard Hudson and Dan Bishop.

Said Hudson: “These are challenging times for our country, yet throughout our history, America has risen to every challenge, and today is no different. I don’t like everything in this bill. While we kept out dangerous provisions like union bailouts, the Green New Deal and election schemes, it still has items I don’t agree with and I worry about the price tag. However, families, hospitals and small businesses need immediate relief.”

Bishop put it this way: “I’m going to vote ‘yes’ enthusiastically. This is a big bill, but the American people are bigger. They will respond to the present threat as Americans have always faced grave challenges: as free men and women with deep reservoirs of strength, capability and when summoned, duty and confidence.”

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