Congress Passes $900-Billion Coronavirus Relief Act

Senator Van Hollen calls it a ‘lifeline’ for Americans affected by the pandemic.










Washington DC (KM ) A major piece of legislation passed by both the House of Representatives and the US Senate on Monday is awaiting signature by the President  The $900-billion package provides the financial assistance to citizens who have suffered due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is long overdue, but it does contain, I think, important lifelines to many families and workers and small businesses,” says Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md).

One provision in the bill provides stimulus payments to certain citizens. “It will include $600 direct payments to eligible individuals, the same eligibility in the CARES Act. It’s $600 per adult, $600 per child,” Senator Van Hollen says.

“It includes another round of help for struggling small businesses under the paycheck protection program,” Van Hollen continues. “Even more targeted at the smallest businesses and those most in need.”

This new bill also extends the unemployment insurance program for folks who lost their jobs because of the pandemic which comes out to an addition $300 per week, Van Hollen explains.

A number of state and local government officials, including Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, have been calling for assistance for states and municipalities. Senator Van Hollen says he’s disappointed it’s not included in this package. “Senator {Mitch} McConnell {R-Ky}, the Republican Senate Leader, opposed that provision from the start. Folks may recall at one point he said the state and local government should  go bankrupt. And we pushed hard,” says Van Hollen.

But he says there are some features in this legislation which could ease the financial strains on state and local governments. “Schools being a big one, community colleges, food assistance; and monies to help deploy the vaccine ,more quickly; and monies for coronavirus testing,” says Van Hollen.

It took several months for members of Congress to realize the need for a new relief bill, Van Hollen noted. “This is a very important lifeline at a critical moment when so many folks are hurting around the country,”: he says. “And it would have been unconscionable for the Congress to leave in December without doing this.”

If the President signs this bill into law, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has said stimulus check could be going out very quickly.

President Donald Trump has blasted the pandemic relief package and is demanding changes. In a tweet on Tuesday, Trump  said he wanted to see a big increase in the $600 stimulus payments for Americans, something Republicans in Congress opposed. He has indicated he may not sign the bill, claiming it delivers too much money to foreign countries, and not enough  to Americans.

Both the House and Senate passed the bill with enough votes to override a veto, according to an Associate Press report.


By Kevin McManus