UPDATED 8:26 AM PT — Thursday, March 26, 2020
The Senate has unanimously approved the largest relief bill in American history. Worth more than $2 trillion, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security, or CARES Act, passed the upper chamber of Congress in a unanimous 96-to-zero vote on Wednesday.
“I’m proud to announce tonight not a single senator voted against this $2 trillion rescue bill to save American individuals, small businesses, larger businesses and to provide considerable funding for the health care workers and the scientists and the doctors and others who are trying to solve this pandemic,” stated Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
The bill came on the heels of several days of around-the-clock negotiations between Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Senate leaders of both parties. Once an agreement was reached, the bill was put to a vote in only 20-hours.
The CARES Act mobilizes an unprecedented amount of funds, estimated at $2.2 trillion, to the purpose of revitalizing the economy and shoring up the financial stability of American individuals and businesses. By contrast, the stimulus plan deployed against the 2008 recession cost $700 billion.
It includes a one-time payment to most Americans. Individuals earning less than $75,000 a year are set to receive $1,200 and couples earning less than $150,000 a year will receive $2,400 plus $500 added on per child. The payments gradually decrease for individuals above those income level and phase out to zero for individuals earning more than $99,000 a year or $198,000 for couples.
The bill also creates a pool of $350 billion for loans to small businesses to cover employee salaries, benefits and prevent lay-offs. It increases unemployment benefits by $600 a week for up to four months, which will be added on top of current benefits granted by individual states.
The measure also provides an extra $117 billion in funding for hospitals and veterans’ health care. The bill has been celebrated almost universally among major elements of government in both parties.
Sen. McConnell, for his part, touted the level of investment the bill represents by drawing an analogy to previous war efforts and sounding a note of resolve in the fight against the pandemic.
“In effect, this is a wartime level of investment into our nation,” he stated. “The men and women of the greatest country on Earth are going to defeat this coronavirus and reclaim our future.”
President Trump also rejoiced over news of the bill’s passage. He has promised to sign it immediately once it reaches his desk.
96-0 in the United States Senate. Congratulations AMERICA!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 26, 2020
Before that, however, the bill heads to the House of Representatives, where leaders are pushing for a voice vote in order to speed up the bill’s passage. A vote in the House is expected as early as Friday.