$2T COVID-19 bill clears House, Trump signs it into law

finally
Signage after the Strip shut down in March. (Photo: Bridget Bennett)
finally
Signage after the Strip shut down earlier this month. (Photo: Bridget Bennett)

A $2 trillion bill to aid workers, health care providers and businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic passed the U.S. House and was signed into law by President Trump 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.”

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.

The sweeping legislation directs funding to a panoply of state and local programs, and some of how that spending would shake out in Nevada was outlined in a statement issued by Rep. Steven Horsford’s office.

  • Of $25 billion for transit agencies, Nevada will get $163 million.
  • The Department of Housing and Urban Development will distribute $2 billion in grants to address to address homelessness. Nevada will get  $13.5 million.
  • Of $3.5 billion in Child Care and Development block grants, Nevada will get $32.7 million.
  • The legislation provides $900 million nationally for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, of which Nevada will receive $7.7 million.

In remarks Friday, Nevada Rep. Dina Titus said whenever a crisis slams the national economy, “my congressional district in the heart of Las Vegas is always among the hardest hit. This time is no different. The people who work at restaurants in Chinatown, clean hotel rooms on the Strip and entertain visitors downtown are struggling to pay rent and feed their children. I want them to know that this recovery package was put together with them in mind.”

In a separate after the bill’s passage, Titus highlighted the legislation’s provisions to help Southern Nevada’s recovery, including $1.5 billion for the Economic Development Administration “that could eventually be used when it is appropriate to advertise that communities like ours are once again open for business.”

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.

“This is by no means the end of Congress’s duty to protect the American people from this pandemic,” said Nevada Democratic Rep. Susie Lee. “We have to stay vigilant and proactive to get relief to every corner of the country, and make sure we’re putting the needs of families and frontline health care workers first.”

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.