Congress and the White House have struck a deal on a $2 trillion economic stimulus package to help the country weather the COVID-19 pandemic.
The package includes money to help small businesses, in the home services industry and otherwise, as well as direct payments and expanded unemployment for individuals who might be affected. Both the Senate and the House of Representatives could vote on the bill as soon as today.
The bill is in addition to measures passed last week to speed the pursuit of a vaccine and expand sick leave for workers nationwide.
With electricians, plumbers, HVAC and pest control technicians and other in-home services exempted from safer-at-home orders because they are deemed essential, the trades have not been hit as hard as service and hospitality industries, airlines and others. Still, business has slowed in some areas because of customers potentially fearful of allowing technicians into their residences, and could slow further in the coming weeks.
Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) called the package a wartime level of investment in our nation. Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) acknowledged that the compromise was “far from perfect,” but hailed it as a product of necessary bipartisan compromise and called it “worker friendly.”
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin also lauded the deal.
“This is going to be very important to help American workers, American business and people across America,” he told reporters early Wednesday morning. “We couldn’t be more pleased.”
Here’s what’s in the bill, which dwarfs the $800 billion stimulus package passed to address the 2008 financial crisis, and how it could help those in the trades:
There is reportedly a $367 billion loan program for small businesses. That money is in addition to the $50 billion set aside for the Small Business Administration, money that is already starting to be approved. The new provisions will not be run through the SBA, but rather through banks, which can process applications and get the money into the hands of businesses more quickly. On the Senate floor over the weekend, Florida Republican Marco Rubio, who has pushed for small business help, said: “This is not a program where you are going to the SBA, you are not going to a tent somewhere in a disaster area or some government office or some government website.” The details for loan and small business assistance programs have not been released. Congress will appoint an inspector general and an oversight board to supervise the programs.
A tax credit for businesses who retain employees despite having to close or facing a significant drop-off in business. The credit, expected to cost $50 billion, would cover half of employees’ paychecks, the Associated Press reported. Companies would also be able to defer payment of the 6.2 percent social security tax.
Unemployment benefits have been extended to four months. State unemployment payments would be bolstered by up to an additional $600 per week for furloughed workers.
Direct, one-time payments of up to $1,200 to those who make less than $75,000 per year, and a $500 per child benefit, would also aid workers.
Still, there are questions about whether the bill will provide enough to meet needs.
"We don't know how long it's going to last, who's affected. We still don't exactly know, " Schumer told CNN's John Berman on "New Day." "We should be willing, able to come back in a bipartisan way and do more if we need. I believe we'll probably have to do that one way or another."
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