Wicker, Hyde-Smith vote for Coronavirus relief – What’s in it?
By Frank Corder
Mississippi’s U.S. Senators Roger Wicker and Cindy Hyde-Smith both voted late Wednesday evening for the $2 trillion bipartisan legislation to support American families, workers, and businesses through the economic fallout created by the coronavirus pandemic. The legislation is an update of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which was introduced last week.
The bill pass the U.S. Senate 96-0.
As chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, Sen. Wicker helped write the original CARES Act and negotiate the final package along with other congressional leaders and Trump administration officials.
“This bipartisan legislation will bring urgently needed financial relief directly to the American people,” Wicker said. “In order to help workers, we are providing assistance to prevent layoffs and keep businesses from shutting down. For those who have already lost their job, we are significantly increasing unemployment checks.”
Sen. Hyde-Smith, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, was sharply critical of Democratic partisan gamesmanship, which delayed Senate consideration of the bill for the last three days.
“There isn’t a single facet of our society that is not being touched by the coronavirus pandemic. The CARES Act is all about alleviating human suffering, both from a health and financial standpoint,” Hyde-Smith said. “A lot of bipartisan input went into this legislation, which we’ve been waiting days to pass. It is not perfect and may require fine-tuning, but it is what the people of Mississippi and this country need in these unprecedented times. It will begin to provide immediate and targeted assistance where it is needed most.”
Sen. Hyde-Smith remains critical of Senate Democrats for filibustering the bill since Sunday and for opposing provisions important to agriculture.
In blocking the bill, congressional Democrats pushed to include in the legislation strictly-partisan items, such as solar tax credits, funding for sanctuary cities, and cancelling the U.S. Postal Service debt.
“The Democrats’ filibuster of this bill is indefensible,” Hyde-Smith said. “It was wrong to try to load down an already-huge bill with ideological baggage, everything from the Green New Deal to post-election audits—none of which is relevant to the ongoing health and economic crisis.”
Sen. Wicker urges the House to pass the bill now to help provide the relief Americans need during this pandemic.
“This plan will also help contain the virus by supporting hospitals and giving Americans certainty as they comply with public health guidelines,” Wicker said. “The House of Representatives should act without delay, because the American people need support now.”
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi expects a Friday morning vote to approve the measure. President Donald Trump has indicated that he would sign it as soon as it reaches his desk.
What is in the bill?
Here is a snapshot of what is in the relief package:
- Direct payments of up to $1,200 for individuals and $2,400 for most married couples filing jointly with an extra $500 for each child. Individuals earning more than $75,000 and couples with more than $150,000 in income would be phased out.
- Expansion of unemployment insurance benefits, increasing the maximum benefit by $600 a week for up to four months.
- A program to improve internet access in rural areas.
- Homeowners with federally-backed mortgages would be protected from foreclosures for 180 days.
- Federal student loans could be suspended until October.
- Small businesses loan program of nearly $350 billion. The loans would not have to be repaid if businesses maintained their workforce.
- Businesses could receive 8 weeks of assistance to bring back laid off workers.
- Funding for hospitals and medical centers, as well as higher Medicare reimbursements.
- Aid for local and state governments of $150 billion. A minimum amount would go to states and other funds would be allocated through a population-based formula.
- Police and fire departments aid for overtime and medical items like personal protective equipment.
- Deadline to enact REAL ID pushed back year to October 2021.
- Grants for arts and humanities programs.
Summaries of major provisions in the CARES Act (HR.748), which is the largest health care and economic rescue package in U.S. history, are available:
- HERE – Keeping Workers Paid and Employed, Health Care System Enhancements, and Economic Stabilization; and
- HERE – Emergency Supplemental Appropriations.