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U.S. House

Coronavirus Relief Votes 2020 (cont'd)

2. Approving $100 Billion in Coronavirus Relief
(Votes Lookup at Roll Call #102)
The House on March 14, 2020, approved a $100 billion safety-net and economic stimulus package to help families, individuals and small and medium-size businesses cope with the first wave of the coronavirus outbreak in the United States. The bill (HR 6201) would fund free virus testing for all who request it; emergency food aid for the poor, seniors and K-12 students; enhanced unemployment benefits; and stepped up Medicaid and public-health outlays. Here are additional details:

Paid Sick Leave

The bill would authorize 10 days' paid sick leave through December to individuals and households affected by the pandemic, using tax credits to reimburse employers the full cost of providing the leave. The payments would have to be at least two-thirds of normal pay and capped at $1,000 per week. Government employees would receive equivalent sick-leave benefits. But companies with 500 or more employees, which account for slightly more than half of the U.S. workforce, would be exempted from having to pay sick leave, and those with fewer than 50 workers, which supply about a quarter of the private work force, could request hardship exemptions. So the bill is projected to deliver paid sick leave to only 20-to-25 percent of the country's private workforce, a share Congress is expected to increase in its next coronavirus legislation.

Paid Medical and Family Leave

The bill also would provide workers at companies affected by the coronavirus with up to 15 days' paid medical and family leave, which would kick in after expiration of the sick leave. As with sick leave, firms employing more than 500 workers would be exempted and those with fewer than 50 workers could seek exemptions.

Floor Debate, Pro and Con

Richard Neal, D-Mass., called it "imperative that anyone who needs to be tested for coronavirus is able to afford that testing" because "If individuals worry that they can't afford the cost of the test, they will forgo it and risk endangering themselves and their community."

Another supporter, Kay Granger, R-Texas, said "we must pass this bill today to help lessen the devastating impact of this global pandemic on the American people."

No member spoke against the bill.

3. Marshaling $2.2 Trillion Against Pandemic
(There was no roll call vote.)
The House on March 27, 2020, approved on a non-record voice vote a $2.2 trillion rescue package (HR 748) to cushion the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on U.S. workers, families, businesses and medical caregivers. In part, the bill would provide:

Payments to Individuals, Households

One-time non-taxable payments, delivered by mail or direct-deposit, of $1,200 to individuals with annual incomes up to $75,000 and $2,400 to couples earning up to $150,000, plus $500 per child. Gradually reduced payments would be made to individuals earning between $75,000 and $99,000 and couples in the $150,000-to-$198,000 range. Higher earners are excluded from the benefit.

Expanded Unemployment Insurance

$250 billion to finance four months' expanded unemployment insurance, under which those losing jobs because of the virus would receive $600 per week on top of their state's base level of jobless pay. The $600 payments would be made available to gig economy workers, independent contractors, the self-employed and others ineligible for regular unemployment benefits in their state.

Small Business Loans

$350 billion in low- or no-interest loans through June 30 to enable businesses with fewer than 500 employees to meet payroll and certain overhead costs including rent. The loans would be totally forgiven for companies agreeing to not lay off workers and rehire those already dismissed during the pandemic. So that the money is quickly infused into the economy, banks would conduct the lending and receive Treasury reimbursement of their expenditures.

Lending to Medium-Size Companies

Loans bearing no more than 2 percent interest to companies with 500 to 10,000 employees that agree not to send jobs overseas; the first six months would be interest-free, and repayment schedules would be delayed for six months.

Aid to State, Local, Tribal Governments

$150 billion help state and local governments cover the cost of fighting the pandemic, with $8 billion allocated to tribal governments.

Aid to Hospitals and the Healthcare System

$130 billion to help hospitals, community health centers and nursing homes procure supplies and equipment and boost staffing levels, plus $1 billion for the Indian Health Service.

Aid to Farmers, Ranchers

$50 billion for Department of Agriculture loan programs to benefit farmers and ranchers.

National Security Payments

$17 billion to companies including Boeing deemed vital to national security.

Payments to Large Corporations, Cities & States

$400 billion for loans and grants to large corporations, cities and states. To receive the full benefit of these payments, companies could not reduce staffs by more than 10 percent, weaken union contracts or use the money to boost executive compensation or finance stock buybacks or dividend payments.

For loans, these restrictions would be in force until the repayment date plus one year. The government would collateralize loans by obtaining equity shares in recipient companies. About $60 billion of the fund would go to the airline industry, with at least $25 billion used to pay salaries and protect hundreds of thousands of jobs in the air-passenger sector from planes to airports.

The Treasury Department, and by extension the White House, would choose recipients and be required to identify the winning companies to Congress within seven days and the public within 14 days, with contract terms revealed. The program would be overseen by a Treasury inspector general and a congressionally appointed five-person review board.

Ban on Payments to Trump Family, Others

Companies controlled by President Trump, Vice President Pence, cabinet members or members of Congress -- or the children, spouses or in-laws of those officials -- are ineligible to benefit from the $400 billion rescue fund and other payments in the bill.

Floor Debate, Pro and Con

Supporter Kevin Brady, R-Texas, said: "For the larger and most distressed businesses, we provide loans knowing [their] survival is crucial to millions of American workers. These loans aren't bailouts. They're given with oversight and repayment to companies who did nothing wrong but suffered collateral damage as a result of this virus."

Opponent Ken Buck, R-Colo., said "we are facing an unprecedented emergency, one tied directly to China's nefarious actions. However, as President Trump said, we cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself... We believe that the fight against the virus will take six-to-eight weeks, yet this bill spends money decades into the future."

The House voted as a chamber to send the bill to the White House.

(Editor's Note: Because no record vote was taken, there is no listing of the stands of individual members.)

4. Approving $3 Trillion for Coronavirus Relief
(Votes Lookup at Roll Call #109)
Voting 208 for and 199 against, the House on May 15, 2020, approved a $3 trillion coronavirus relief package (HR 6800) that includes nearly $1 trillion for state, local, tribal and territorial governments; $200 billion to fund hazard pay for essential workers including medical personnel and first responders; $100 billion for hospitals serving poor communities; $100 billion to help tenants pay rent; $75 billion in homeowner mortgage aid and $75 billion for testing for all and free coronavirus care for those without health insurance. In addition, the bill would:

Aid to Postal Service

Provide $25 billion to sustain the Postal Service; $10 billion in disaster aid to businesses and non-profits shut out of the Paycheck Protection Program; $3.6 billion to boost ballot security and voter participation in this year's elections; $600 million to help local police departments meet payroll and equipment costs; $600 million to address virus spread in state and federal prisons, and unspecified sums to cover $600 per week in enhanced unemployment benefits through January; a second round of stimulus payments of $1,200 to individuals and $2,400 to families up to certain income levels plus expanded child tax credits, and expanded food aid.

Student Loan Forgiveness

Fund student-loan forgiveness of up to $10,000 per borrower; open the Affordable Care Act to coronavirus victims lacking health insurance; expand so-called COBRA temporary medical insurance to those losing coverage at work; require the Occupational Health and Safety Administration to invoke coronavirus workplace rules within seven days; delay Census Bureau deadlines for supplying apportionment and redistricting data to jurisdictions; provide tax credits to incentivize employers to retain workers; expand earned-income tax credits for low-income families; temporarily lift a cap on tax deductions for state and local tax payments in certain states and shore up multi-employer pension plans in collective bargaining agreements.

Floor Debate, Pro and Con

KweisiMfume, D-Md., said the bill "provides real support for American heroes. Our cops, our teachers, our firemen, our first responders... It is supported by Republicans, and somebody needs to say that. Republican governors. Republican mayors. And Republican members from that side of the aisle that will vote for this."

Steve Scalise, R-La., said "we should also be talking about what's not in this bill...[Democrats] have $500 billion in this package for states including many who already wrecked their economy and had billion dollar deficits prior to Covid-19... What's not in this bill is money to hold China accountable for this whole mess..."

A yes vote was to send the bill to the Senate.

5. Plugging Holes in Paycheck Protection
(Votes Lookup at Roll Call #114)
Voting 417 for and one against, the House on May 28, 2020, passed a bill (HR 7010) that would change the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to correct deficiencies uncovered since it was enacted March 27 to help companies with fewer than 500 employees stay in business and retain workers during the novel coronavirus pandemic. Congress has appropriated $649 billion for the PPP, but at least $100 billion of the outlay has not yet been distributed because of program flaws addressed by this bill.

Small Business Administration Loans

In its original form, the PPP funded two-year, 1 percent Small Business Administration (SBA) loans, which would be converted to grants if the recipient company, in an eight-week span, used at least 75 percent of the sum for payroll costs and the remainder for utility and rent or mortgage payments. This bill extends the spending window to 24 weeks and changes the allocation ratio from 75-25 to 60-40. In addition, the bill would:

Counting Laid-Off Workers

Allow companies to include laid-off workers who have received "good faith" rehiring offers to be included in the payroll count for satisfying loan-forgiveness requirements. One effect of this provision would be to allow those out of work to collect a full allotment of state- and federally funded unemployment checks before returning to their employer's payroll.

Safe Harbor for Restaurants

Establish a safe harbor for businesses, including restaurants, that are required to open at limited (such as 50 percent) capacity in order to comply with social-distancing rules. These companies would receive more time to achieve staffing levels necessary to have their loan converted to a grant.

Payroll Tax Benefits

Allow companies to keep IRS payroll-tax benefits, including deductions, for the portion of a worker's pay funded by a PPP loan that is later converted to a grant.

Floor Debate, Pro and Con

Fred Upton, R-Mich., said: "As much as all of us wanted this nightmare to end by Easter, we are now past Memorial Day, and those small businesses are still not open...and they can't possibly meet that 75 percent standard...to convert that loan to a grant. So without the changes in this bipartisan bill, [the PPP] instead will be an anchor that will take them down."

No member spoke against the bill. The negative vote was cast by Thomas Massie, R-Ky.

A yes vote was to send the bill to the Senate.

Copyright 2020, Thomas Voting Reports, Inc.