Vote set on $2 trillion stimulus bill

By CBJ News Staff

The U.S. Senate will vote this afternoon on a massive $2 trillion stimulus package designed to keep the economy afloat amid the deepening COVID-19 pandemic, according to news reports and local business sources.

The full text of the bill is not yet known, but it includes a $500 billion lending fund for industries, cities and states; a $367 billion lending program for small businesses, including forgivable loans for those businesses that keep their payrolls steady; $150 billion for state and local stimulus funds; and $150 billion for hospitals and health care systems.

The bill also expands government program loans to permit payroll support, and provides additional grants to business development centers for counseling, training and other small business-related services. Unemployment benefits will be extended and “significantly bolstered” by $250 billion, in part to increase payments to gig economy workers and freelancers.

Americans making less than $99,000 (or $198,000 for couples) would receive direct checks of $1,200, with an additional $500 payment per child.

If approved by the Senate this afternoon, it will go to the House, which is currently out of session but could approve it by “unanimous consent,” a procedure that allows the chamber to pass legislation without being present in the chamber itself, but would require no objections from any member.

If that happens, it will head to President Donald Trump, who has already said he will “absolutely, absolutely, absolutely” sign the bill.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., announced a deal around 1:30 a.m., the Washington Post reports, following days of negotiations with Trump administration officials and Congressional Democrats, who had scuttled a previous version of the bill over concerns about oversight. Mr. McConnell hailed it as a “wartime level of investment into our nation,” at a late-night press conference, according to the Wall Street Journal.

If passed, the bill will mark the third legislative package approved by the federal government to address the growing economic fallout from COVID-19. The first bill provided $8.3 billion in emergency aid and the second package provided paid leave, free testing and some paid leave and unemployment benefits for workers, the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance noted in a morning note to members.

Markets approved of the news, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average up about 1.7% this morning following Tuesday’s historic gain. The S&P 500 was up less than a point as of this deadline. Investors continued to flock to government debt, however, pushing yields short- and medium-term Treasury bills below zero this morning. CBJ