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Special to The News-Courier
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump Trump signed into law last Friday the largest rescue measure in history, a $2-trillion economic relief package to get money to many Americans as well as hospitals, businesses, and state and local governments struggling with the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I want to thank Democrats and Republicans for coming together and putting America first,” Trump said.
The Senate had passed the legislation 96-0 earlier last week following extensive negotiations between Democrats and Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin, significantly altering and expanding a package initially proposed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky).
The final vote in the House did not go exactly as planned as lawmakers had to use a procedural move to quash Republican Rep. Thomas Massie’s motion for a recorded roll call of lawmakers. When Massie called a second time for a roll call vote, he failed to get a fifth of those lawmakers present to support him, as required by House rules. After more than three hours of debate, the $2-trillion bill passed by a voice vote in just under a minute.
The relief provisions will touch many aspects of American life, providing a one-time direct payout of up to $1,200 for most American adults. In addition, the bill includes $500 billion in loans to struggling businesses, $377 billion in loans and grants for small businesses, $150 billion for local, state and tribal governments facing a drop in revenue and $130 billion for hospitals dealing with an onslaught of patients.
The package also blocks foreclosures and evictions during the crisis on properties where the federal government backs the mortgage; pauses federal student loan payments for six months and waives the interest; gives states millions of dollars to begin planning for the November election by offering mail or early voting; provides more than $25 billion for food assistance programs such as SNAP; and provides a $600 increase in jobless benefits for four months, on top of what states provide as base compensation, and extended by 13 weeks the duration of benefits, which is typically 26 weeks.
In addition, Trump used his power under the 1950 Defense Production Act to issue General Motors to produce badly-needed ventilators for hospitals strained by COVID-19.
“Our fight against the virus is too urgent to allow the give-and-take of the contracting process to continue to run its normal course,” he said. “GM was wasting time.”