Election 2020 Politics

What exactly is in this massive $2 trillion Senate coronavirus bill?

The $2 trillion bill touches every part of the economy, and parts of it are still being negotiated and could change. But overall, there are five categories of beneficiaries of the bill: taxpayers, small businesses, corporations, hospitals, and states and localities. Let’s start with how this bill aims to help you, the taxpayer, during the coronavirus pandemic.

Taxpayers

Anyone who files a 2019 return and earns $75,000 or less will receive a one-time $1,200 check, or $2,400 for couples filing jointly. In addition, those households will receive $500 per child. The check amount will go down until it phases out completely for people earning $99,000, or $198,000 for joint taxpayers. The Tax Foundation estimates this will cost $301 billion.

The bill also includes specific proposals for people who have lost their jobs or are experiencing financial hardship.

Most people who lost their jobs can already file for state unemployment insurance, and millions have tried to do that already, overwhelming state systems. This Senate bill will give an extra $600 per month for up to four months to people already receiving their states’ unemployment insurance. It also for the first time covers gig workers, like Uber and Lyft drivers who lose their jobs, something Uber and Airbnb executives lobbied Congress for. And it temporarily expands unemployment insurance to people who would like to work but can’t because they are sick or are caring for a family member who is, including people who are self-employed or who don’t have an extensive work history. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) has called this “unemployment insurance on steroids.”

A handful of Republican senators oppose these unemployment benefits, which don’t cap out at a certain income, because they say it could disincentivize people who make less than the benefit would provide to go back to work. “We cannot encourage people to make more money in unemployment than they do in employment,” Sen. Tim Scott (S.C.) said on Wednesday.

It also includes a big increase in the food stamp program. And a big increase in a farmer bailout program.

People who need extra cash as a result of the economic impact of the virus will be allowed to withdraw from their retirement accounts without getting hit by a 10 percent fee.

Students with federal loans can suspend payments until Sept. 30, interest free. Students who have to drop out of school because of this virus also don’t have to pay loans for that time.

Small businesses

This was the easy part of the legislation. A bipartisan proposal to give shuttered small businesses loans was largely uncontroversial. The Senate measure includes a $367 billion loan program for small businesses. Small businesses will be able to take out loans of up to $10 million, and employers could use the money to pay employees making up to $100,000 a year.

Corporations

This biggest chunk of spending in this historic bill is reserved for companies and industries: $500 billion.

Some $58 billion of that is specifically for airlines, which say they are harder hit financially than in the weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. And there’s a little-noticed, controversial carve-out specifically for Boeing, which is still under fire for its deadly jet crashes, to get $17 billion in federal aid, The Post reports.

Companies that had to lay off employees and that hire them back when this is all over can qualify for loan forgiveness.

But companies in which the president, White House officials or members of Congress own a majority stake can’t receive any loans. That means Trump’s hotels — which he has acknowledged are hurting in this crisis and which The Post has reported are probably losing millions — can’t apply for financial assistance.

Democrats negotiated to get more oversight and more transparency for this category. The original Senate GOP bill would have allowed the Treasury Department to hand out loans without scrutiny and without reporting where the money went for six months. Now, loans will be publicized within two weeks. There will be an oversight board and an inspector general watchdog within the Treasury Department to keep an eye on where this money is going.

Companies can’t buy back stocks (to make their bottom lines look good to investors) for as long as they are receiving assistance, and a year afterward. But Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin can waive that rule for companies if he tells Congress about it first.

Hospitals

The bill includes $130 billion to help hospitals do, well, everything: Acquire personal protective equipment (states in the hardest-hit areas are competing with one another to get ventilators, in the absence of help from the federal government); find ways to allow doctors to talk to patients remotely; and encourage creating drugs to treat the virus. It will also include money to help health-care workers learn best practices for treating elderly patients, who are hit particularly hard by the virus.

And it puts into legislation requirements that the Trump administration keep track of its stockpiles of lifesaving equipment like ventilators and protective equipment for health-care workers.

States and localities

They can apply for loans from the corporate pool. But there’s also a separate $150 billion stimulus for communities. Health experts say state and county health departments are on the front lines of fighting the virus. Local health officials have had their budgets largely slashed over the past few years but now could be key to tracing the contacts of infected people so they can be quarantined as well. That’s how many areas in Asia effectively limited the spread of the virus.

The bill also includes $400 million to help states protect voters from the virus. A growing number of election officials say the answer is mail-in ballots, but setting up the system will be time-consuming and expensive. Only five states are set up for statewide mail-only elections. This funding is far less than what was requested by states that want to set up mail voting, reports The Post’s Amy Gardner. According to Gardner, Democrats wanted this bill to mandate that states have mail-in ballots in a national emergency.

Will it pass the House?

We’ll see. There has been opposition from different ends of the political spectrum, including liberal leader Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and libertarian Justin Amash (I-Mich.), who both say it doesn’t go far enough.

In addition, New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D), who is fighting a massive outbreak in his state, slammed the bill. “It would really be terrible for the state of New York,” Cuomo said Wednesday. “That is a drop in the bucket as to need.”

But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) says she wants to get this voted on as soon as possible.

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