- The Washington Times - Monday, March 23, 2020

House Democrats unveiled a $2.5 trillion economic stimulus package Monday, their response to the bill the GOP-controlled Senate is attempting to pass.

The final version of the bill was released late Monday night.

House Republicans slammed the finalized bill as a “socialist wish list” that expands too far beyond the scope of the coronavirus.

More than $150 billion will be funneled into the health care system — hospitals, care centers, etc — to shore up resources for equipment and programs for coronavirus treatment. It also strengthens worker requirements to better protect those working directly to combat the disease.

It allocates nearly $8 billion to defense resources going to combat the virus: $3.48 billion to the National Guard, $3.8 billion for military health care services and $500 million for the Defense Production Act.

Their plan to give direct cash payments to the public would extend $1,500 per individual and up to $7,500 to a family of five. There is also $602 million set aside for tax credits, including child and earned income credits.

It also suspends rent payments for those receiving federal rental assistance and puts a moratorium on evictions nationwide.

The bill would create a temporary employment program that pays $600 per week to any worker affected by the coronavirus economic impact, which combined with other benefits, should provide a full compensation. It also expands which workers would be eligible for unemployment.

Democrats also allocated $25 billion for lost revenue to the postal service.

Federal workers that are still required to come to work during the crisis will receive $2,000 per child per month throughout the crisis.

It also expands on several aspects of the second coronavirus package — including paid sick leave benefits and SNAP food security programs — and eliminates copays for all coronavirus treatments.

These paid sick leave benefits will be extended to businesses with 50 employees or less and “strips the Labor Secretary of authority” to carve these companies out.

It sets aside more than $500 billion in grants and interest-free loans for small businesses, many of which have been shuttered by government-mandated shelter-in-place and self-quarantine policies. Of that, $300 billion in guaranteed loans are set aside for short-term payroll expenses.

There is $215 billion in grants allocated for state and local governments to help continue to fund public services.

It also gives $60 billion to schools and universities, and allows for $10,000 in student loan forgiveness.

The legislation will also has $4 billion in grants for states to continue with the scheduled 2020 election, while requiring that they expand early and absentee voting opportunities with a 15-day window — including providing self-sealing envelopes and prepaid postage for mail-in ballots.

The voting regulations extend, however, to require states allow same-day voter registration and no longer request the last four digits of social security numbers.

It also sets aside $20 million for “risk limiting” audits of election results.

Democrats were skeptical of supporting “bailouts” of hard-hit industries in the Senate’s phase three bill, but do include funds for the airline industry with some important caveats.

The bill provides $37 billion in grants to airline and cargo employees, $3 billion to ground support contractors, and $21 billion in unsecured loans to air carriers.

Airports will receive $10 billion for infrastructure, sanitation and workforce purposes, but they must retain 10% of their workforce.

Air carriers must also maintain a $15 minimum wage for all contracted workers. The funds are prohibited from being used for stock buybacks or going to shareholders; CEO salaries are capped at 50 times more than their average employee.

This portion of the package provides $1 billion to eliminate high-polluting aircraft and $100 million in research for green fuel. It also requires all air carriers that receive assistance to offset their carbon emissions by 2025 — these carriers will need to reduce their emissions by 50% by 2050.

The package includes $100 million to create an oversight panel to ensure all the funds appropriated to tackle the coronavirus are properly used.

Mrs. Pelosi told reporters that the House could be willing to vote on the package this week, depending on what unfolds in the Senate.

“That is a hope yes, but we’ll see what the Senate does,” she said.

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