The Senate voted on Wednesday to approve a $2 trillion bill to cushion the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, including hundreds of billions for companies and a massive expansion of unemployment benefits.
The Senate voted 96-0 to approve the measure, after two votes earlier in week failed along party lines. The House of Representatives is expected to take up the measure on Friday, and President Trump has said he will quickly sign it into law.
“It was a long, hard road,” said Minority Leader Charles Schumer, on the Senate floor. “This is a time when the American people need their government.”
Before the final vote, the Senate voted down an amendment from a handful of Republican Senators that would have capped unemployment benefits at no more than the recipient’s prior salary. That amendment, which required 60 votes for passage, failed on a vote of 48-48.
The stimulus bill provides a one-time payment of $1,200 to most American adults, plus $500 per child. It also provides for a dramatic expansion of unemployment insurance, including providing benefits to self-employed and freelance workers who have lost work due to the crisis.
The bill also provides $454 billion in loans and loan guarantees for large corporations hit by the pandemic, as well as $25 billion in loans for the airline industry and $17 billion for “businesses critical to maintaining national security.” Another $349 billion will be made available to small businesses, with the loans becoming grants if the businesses retain their workforce.
The bill includes some generous provisions for the hotel and restaurant industry, including one that allows owners of multiple hotel or restaurant locations to be classified as small businesses. It also includes $75 million each for the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, and $25 million for the John F. Kennedy Performing Arts Center in Washington, D.C.
The bill does not include any specific handouts for the entertainment industry, which has also been hammered by the shuttering of theaters nationwide. The National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO), however, said the loan guarantees for both small and large businesses would help theaters pay their fixed costs during the shutdown.
“With this aid, movie theaters can get through this crisis confident in being able to re-open, knowing their vital, trained workforce is able to weather this pandemic and have jobs waiting for them when it is safe to reopen,” NATO said in a statement.
The stimulus bill will increase unemployment benefits by $600 a week over for four months — a massive increase. In California alone, one million people have filed for unemployment since March 13, according to Gov. Gavin Newsom. (The state typically averages about 2,000 claims per day.)
The bill had its critics. In a press conference on Wednesday morning, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the bill was “terrible” for his state. He said New York has already spent more than $1 billion trying to respond to the pandemic, and expects to spend many times that before the crisis is over.
“New York City gets $1.3 billion from this package,” he said. “That is a drop in the bucket.”
Newsom, speaking later in the day, said he appreciated that California will receive $10 billion from the bill, but he cautioned that “there will need to be more in the future.”