WASHINGTON – The U.S. House of Representatives passed a historic $2.2 trillion bailout package for fortifying the U.S. economy against the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, sending the historically massive bailout bill to the President’s desk Friday by way of a voice vote.
In a statement issued following the stimulus package’s passage, Rep. Peter Welch, D – Vt., heralded the relief bill as a means for providing “much needed assistance to families who are struggling to make ends meet, small businesses trying to figure out how to keep the lights on, and our medical providers who are caring for our loved ones and neighbors.”
Also known as the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act or CARES Act, the massive bailout package earmarks $500 billion for a lending program to support businesses distressed by the COVID-19 pandemic and creates a $367 billion fund specifically supporting small businesses impacted by measures taken to stagger the pandemic.
The bill also sets up funding to provide most American adults a $1,200 direct payment and commits more than $130 billion to hospitals and $150 billion to state and local governments stressed by their responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The bill also guarantees nearly $10 billion in agricultural supports and almost $16 billion for stabilizing the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, otherwise known as SNAP.
The bill had passed the Senate unanimously late Wednesday evening, with both Sens. Patrick Leahy, D - Vt., and Bernie Sanders, I - Vt., backing its passage.
Leahy, the vice chair of the Senate’s appropriations committee, was one of the leading negotiators behind much of the stimulus package’s contents. “Vermont had a front seat in writing and negotiating this bill,” Leahy said in a written statement. “I am pleased that Vermont will receive this critical assistance, and know more will need to be done.”
According to a report from Leahy's office, Vermont was expected to receive $2 billion in federal funds courtesy of the CARES Act, with most of those funds coming courtesy of the $150 billion relief fund established for bailing out state and local governments impacted by COVID-19.
Sanders, who made national headlines this week for threatening to “put a hold on” the bill over calls from several prominent Republican lawmakers to strip back its unemployment measures, said on social media, “last night’s bill expands unemployment benefits in a way that has never taken place before.”
“We still need to go much further and address working people’s needs in a more substantial way,” Sanders added.
Welch, in a statement issued following Friday's vote in the House of Representatives, appeared to agree.
“We have more work to do to pull us out of this unprecedented crisis, but this bill is an important step to help us get there,” Welch said. “Vermonters know that we are all in this together.”
President Donald Trump is expected to sign the bill into law.