The coronavirus pandemic is changing the economic reality for millions of American families, but early Wednesday morning the White House and the Senate struck a deal to provide the largest relief package in American history, and late Wednesday night (after intense negotiations) the Senate voted, unanimously, to approve the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act.
On Friday, the House approved the $2 trillion package. The bill now goes to President Trump for signing.
Here's what you need to know about the stimulus package:
The stimulus package includes a $500 billion relief fund to help industries and states, but businesses owned by members of Congress, Vice President Mike Pence or the President and his family will not be eligible for this bailout.
Small businesses are getting $367 billion in forgivable loans to stay afloat and keep paying employees.
Unemployment insurance will be extended to four months under the stimulus plan, with more workers becoming eligible and benefit amounts increased.This comes as a record 3.28 million Americans have filed for unemployment after losing work amid the pandemic.
The stimulus package will also see cash in the hands of American families. The plan proposes $1,200 checks for people who make $75,000 or less, and for married couples who make up to $150,000 there will be checks for $2,400 (plus $500 for each child in the household). Individuals who make more than $99,000 are not eligible, and couples who make more than $198,000 are also not included in the plan.
These checks are not expected to arrive instantly. The White House wants to see them out by April 6, CNN reports, but some experts suggest May is a more realistic timeframe, as historic records suggest projects of this magnitude will take at least six weeks.
Celebration and criticism:
"This is a very important bipartisan piece of legislation that is going to be very important to help American workers, American business and people across America," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said. "We couldn't be more pleased."
"This is not a moment of celebration, but one of necessity," minority leader, Sen. Chuck Schumer said Wednesday. "To all Americans, I say, 'Help is on the way.'"
Democrats and Republicans are on board with the deal, but Michigan Independent Rep. Justin Amash tweeted, "This bipartisan deal is a raw deal for the people. It does far too little for those who need the most help, while providing hundreds of billions in corporate welfare, massively growing government, inhibiting economic adaptation, and widening the gap between the rich and the poor."
New York's Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez also expressed criticism of the corporate portions of the package. "Just a reminder that there is absolutely no good reason why Senate Republicans are tying a historic corporate giveaway to getting relief money in the hands of families. They could just authorize sending checks to families today, right now, & deal with the rest. But they refuse," she tweeted.
[This post was first published March 25, 2020. It has been updated].