Congress plans to approve a $484 billion stimulus bill that would provide funding for hospitals, testing, and small businesses.
It took some negotiation, but Congress finally came to an agreement earlier in the week. The Senate voted to approve the “Interim Emergency Bill” on Tuesday. The bill will head to the House for a final vote today before going to the White House for President Trump’s signature.
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Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said the round-two stimulus bill is an improvement over the first. “We negotiated a bill that not only provided support, but made it more effective, more inclusive, and addressed other urgent national priorities,” Schumer said in an address from the Senate floor.
The bill focuses on providing funding for businesses and healthcare providers. Therefore, there’s no additional funding for direct stimulus or unemployment benefits. However, it includes a fresh injection of cash for small business lending. Last month, the government set aside $350 billion for small business loans under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). However, thousands of struggling businesses submitted applications, causing the funds to deplete rapidly.
Helping Small Businesses
Lawmakers allocated an additional $320 billion for the PPP. This sum will serve to provide loans to smaller businesses. This will help them cover payroll and other essential expenses over the next two months. Additional funding for the program sat “at the core of our agreement,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said. McConnell praised the bill from the floor of the Senate. He also said the program “is already saving millions of small-business jobs and helping Americans get paychecks instead of pink slips.” The PPP portion of the bill includes $60 billion that is set aside specifically for small, midsize, and community lenders.
Another relief lending program, the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) fund, will also receive an additional $60 billion. EIDL loans aim to rapidly deliver a mix of grants and loans to impacted businesses. Under the terms of the new bill, EIDL funds are now available to farmers and ranchers who, previously, could only access PPP loans. However, many farmers faced problems when applying for PPP loans because many lenders mistakingly thought they didn’t have eligibility.
Healthcare Services Funds
The bill also includes much-needed funding for healthcare services, including testing. Hospitals, which have been under tremendous stress as a result of the outbreak, will receive $75 billion under the terms of the new bill. Also, an additional $25 billion is set aside to ramp up testing across the country.
The testing budget provides $11 billion to states and local governments so that they can administer tests and conduct contact tracing. It also includes up to $1 billion to cover the cost of testing uninsured patients. Another $1 billion is included for a Center for Disease Control surveillance program, which will support contact tracing.
President Trump tweeted Tuesday that an additional stimulus bill was also in the works. Round three will provide funding for cash-strapped local and state governments. There could also be provisions for infrastructure spending and financial relief for the entertainment industry.