Shortly before midnight, the US Senate has passed the $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package by a vote of 96-0.
Referred to as the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the 880-page document is headed to the House next, then to the President.
The CARES Act includes significant provisions to protect the health and wellbeing of Louisianians. These include resources for medical care, small businesses, workers and key industries.
One part of the Act is the provision for one-time direct payments to Americans – $1,200 checks to individuals making up to $75,000 per year and $2,400 to couples making up to $150,000 per year, with payments increasing by $500 per child per household.
“The coronavirus has hit Louisiana hard and nearly ground the gears of our economy to a halt. People’s lives and their livelihoods depend on a swift, comprehensive response to this pandemic. The size and scope of spending in this bill is significant, but inaction in the face of this unprecedented challenge would be reckless,” said Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.)
“This virus poses a unique health risk, and we know that poverty can also threaten lives. Understanding that, I voted today to protect the wellbeing of Louisianans now and into the future by investing in medical services, families, workers and businesses,” said Kennedy.
“The Coronavirus epidemic has damaged our physical and our economic health. This bill supports the economic health of individuals, families and employers. It also advances the fight to make us safe from the disease,” said Sen. Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-La.)
Other resources included in the Act are:
· The CARES Act provides coronavirus testing at no cost to patients and requires private insurance plans to cover testing costs,
· ensures the coronavirus vaccine is free to recipients,
· includes $117 billion for hospitals and veterans’ health care,
· includes $11 billion for vaccines, therapeutics, diagnostics and other preparedness measures,
· includes $4.3 billion for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,
· includes $1.5 billion for state and local health responders,
· includes $45 billion for the FEMA disaster relief fund and
· includes $16 billion for the Strategic National Stockpile to improve access to supplies needed for national security and pandemic recovery.
· The CARES Act includes $450 billion for loans, loan guarantees and investments to support eligible businesses, states and municipalities,
· authorizes main street lending at the Federal Reserve to be leveraged up to $4 trillion,
· allows small businesses to delay paying payroll taxes,
· provides $350 billion in guaranteed Small Business Administration loans for businesses and non-profits with 500 or fewer employees, including those who are self-employed or part of the gig economy, allowing funds to pay employee salaries, wages, cash tips, sick leave, employee group health care benefits and insurance premiums, retirement contributions and covered leave,
· offers loans immediately and would waive affiliation rules for small businesses in the hospitality and restaurant industries, certain franchises and businesses receiving financing through the Small Business Investment Company program and
· waives the early withdrawal penalty for qualified retirement accounts up to $100,000 for reasons related to the coronavirus.
· The CARES Act provides $1,200 checks to individuals and $2,400 to couples in low- and middle-income households, with payments increasing by $500 per child per household,
· makes more workers eligible for unemployment benefits and provides them with $600 per week for up to four months, allowing the Department of Labor to approve funds for states lacking the resources to make these payments,
· provides $1.5 billion to support economic development grants for areas impacted by the coronavirus,
· provides $1 billion in loans to the rural business and industry loan guarantee program,
· provides $300 million to provide direct financial assistance to all manner of fishers, fishery participants and communities that have been affected by the coronavirus and
· provides $25 million for the learning, telemedicine and broadband grants program.
Key industries and state and local governments:
· The CARES Act establishes a $500 billion economic stabilization fund to support industries, states and cities,
· includes $150 billion to supplement state and local government budgets,
· provides an estimated $1.8 billion to Louisiana to fund coronavirus-related assistance,
· provides $25 billion in collateralized loans for airlines and
· provides $17 billion in collateralized loans for businesses critical to maintaining national security.