Behemoth $2T COVID-19 response bill clears U.S. House, heads to Trump

    U.S. Capitol | Susan J. Demas, Michigan Advance
    U.S. Capitol | Susan J. Demas, Michigan Advance

    WASHINGTON — A $2 trillion bill to aid workers, health care providers and businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic is poised to become law following its passage in the U.S. House 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.”

    Rep. Glenn Grothman
    Rep. Glenn Grothman

    Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-Wis.) warned that the cost of the bill is “too high,” but he said Congress “must act to calm the panic and move back to normalcy.” He said he flew to Washington Thursday on the only Southwest flight from Milwaukee that day, which had five passengers. “Usually there are two almost full flights.”

    Grothman said that President Trump “is right to act and stand up to the purists who have let businesses go under.” He added that he’s concerned about the unemployment benefits going over $900 a week, more than most Wisconsin people make. “I want to help Americans laid off, but this provision delays the recovery and I hope Americans don’t bite on it.”

    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.

    Robin Bravender
    Robin Bravender was the States Newsroom Washington Bureau Chief from January 2019 until June 2020. She coordinated the network’s national coverage and reported on states’ congressional delegations, federal agencies, the White House and the federal courts. Prior to that, Robin was an editor and reporter at E&E News, a reporter at Politico, and a freelance producer for Reuters TV.