(Author’s Note: Updated to reflect that the President signed the bill into law.)
The Senate has passed the House’s bill intended to provide economic relief in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The original bill, H.R. 6201, Families First Coronavirus Response Act, cleared the House last week.
COVID-19 is the official name for the infectious disease caused by the most recently discovered coronavirus. According to the World Health Organization, as of March 18, 2020, there are 193,029 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in 164 territories and countries. According to Johns Hopkins, the United States has 7,324 confirmed cases with reported cases in every state.
As a result of the virus, state, local, and federal government officials have instituted varying degrees of voluntary and mandatory quarantines. The impact has been felt immediately by some businesses, including those who depend on in-person customer interaction.
After initially suggesting that the bill was flawed, Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell got behind it, saying, “This is a time for urgent bipartisan action, and in this case, I do not believe we should let perfection be the enemy of something that will help even a subset of workers.”
The bill passed with a vote of 90-8 (and two abstentions). You can see how your Senator voted here.
Before the vote, three amendments to the bill failed. The most notable was a sound 95-3 no vote on a motion by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) intended to “amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to require a social security number for purposes of the child tax credit, to provide the President the authority to transfer funds as necessary, and to terminate United States military operations and reconstruction activities in Afghanistan.” You can see how your Senator voted on the Paul amendment here (spoiler Alert: only Braun (R-IN), Lee (R-UT), and Paul (R-KY) voted yes).
The President signed the bill into law on Wednesday, March 18, 2020. He had previously endorsed it on Twitter, tweeting:
The bill guarantees free testing or health care coverage for coronavirus testing. It also provides paid sick leave for some workers and offers additional funding for seniors, food assistance, and unemployment benefits.
The bill does not affect tax season filing deadlines. Payment deadlines have been extended, and on March 20, 2020, Treasury Secretary Mnuchin announced that the tax filing deadline has been extended to July 15, 2020.
The bill also does not include any payroll tax relief. Payroll tax relief has been shelved in exchange for immediate stimulus payments with the President confirming during a Wednesday White House briefing that checks are likely with the amount “to be determined.” It’s been suggested that there would be two checks to be released, with one in April and again in May. McConnell has promised that the Senate won’t recess until those details are hammered out.
This bill – and any future stimulus relief – is in addition to the $8.3 billion emergency health package, which was passed earlier this month. This most recent bill specifically focuses on economic aid for workers.