U.S. Senate Advances Historic CARES Act to provide $2 Trillion in Economic Aid Amid COVID-19 Pandemic
Late Wednesday night, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES) – a $2 trillion package aimed at supporting individuals and families, small businesses, and critical industries to weather the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the core of the legislation is $300 billion in direct payments to households to help put more money into the hands of most Americans . Specifically, the plan provides direct payments to individuals and families for as much as $1,200 per person who earn $75,000 or less in income. For those making more, the payments would scale down based on income. Each family would also receive $500 in payments for each child in the household.

The CARES Act also infuses $250 billion for expanded unemployment compensation for workers who have been furloughed or laid off due to the pandemic. The new stimulus plan provides $600 in additional cash benefit per week, on top of the current state benefit provided to each unemployed individual through state law. This new benefit would be funded for an additional 13 weeks, going from 26 weeks to 39 weeks of coverage, expiring Dec. 31, 2020.

In addition, the Senate-passed proposal provides significant funding to help small businesses and nonprofits weather the economic storm caused by the COVID-19 epidemic. The bill creates a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which provides more than $360 billion in Small Buisness Administration (SBA) lending program. The PPP is modeled after the existing Small Business Act program, but loans through the PPP are given a 100 percent government guarantee. The program will apply to small business, nonprofits, veterans’ organizations, and a myriad of qualifying individuals.

In addition, the CARES Act will dedicate $500 billion to help “severely distressed” sectors of the economy impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic . The program contains a large lending program that includes loans, loan guarantees, and other investments. Eligible businesses are defined as U.S. businesses that have not otherwise received adequate economic relief in the form of loans or loan guarantees provided under the CARES Act.

The bill also provides $117 billion for hospitals and other healthcare providers to deal with the firestorm of coronavirus cases facing the industry. The package also includes $45 billion for the FEMA Disaster Relief Fund, $4.2 billion to the Centers for Disease Control and $11 billion for vaccines, therapeutics, diagnostics and other medical needs.

On Wednesday evening, U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey provided a statement on the passage of the historic proposal, saying the CARES Act is far from perfect, but there was a need and demand for action in this critical time. U.S. Sen. Bob Casey also issued a statement , praising the bill's commitment to the economic and public health of the country.

It is expected that the U.S. House of Representatives will vote on this historic plan Friday morning by voice vote, to avoid having all members return to Washington D.C. to vote in person.

For a summary of the CARES Act provided by the Senate Republican Conference, click here .

Please know that at the time of this publication, the bill has not yet passed the House. Also, important regulations and provisions as to how the legislation may be implemented are also not yet public. If there are any major changes or important developments, we will do our best to be timely with our updates.

Unprecedented times, but McNees is here to help.

The situation surrounding COVID-19 is changing by the hour. Capitol Buzz will do its best to keep our readers as up-to-date as possible as to local, state and federal actions relating to the virus.

As we have stated in previous editions, for those businesses seeking guidance or assistance on how to proceed during this unprecedented time, please contact the McNees Labor and Employment Practice Group, or for government relations assistance please contact the McNees Strategic Solutions Group (MSSG).

For more information on what you can do to protect yourself and others, check out the CDC's coronavirus information page or visit www.health.pa.gov.
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