• Thomas Parker

Congress passes another $500 billion virus bill

This week the House and Senate passed a nearly $500 billion interim coronavirus relief bill by voice vote that includes additional funding for its small business loan program, as well as for hospitals and testing. President Trump is expected to sign the bill on Friday.

The primary portion of the bill is the Trump administration's $250 billion request to replenish the Paycheck Protection Program's small and medium-size business loan program to assist with payroll costs and other expenses.

The measure also contains $100 billion funding demanded by Democrats for hospitals and a nationwide testing program, along with $60 billion for small banks and an alternative network of community development banks that focus on urban neighborhoods.

Trump celebrated the bill’s passage at his daily White House briefing Thursday. “At a time when many Americans are enduring significant economic challenges, this bill will help small businesses to keep millions of workers on the payroll,” he said.

“Millions of people out of work,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. “This is really a very, very, very sad day. We come to the floor with nearly 50,000 deaths, a huge number of people impacted, and the uncertainty of it all. We hope to soon get to a recovery phase. But right now we’re still in mitigation.”

Passage of more coronavirus relief is likely in the weeks ahead. Supporters are already warning that the business-backed Payroll Protection Program will exhaust the new $250 billion almost immediately. Launched just weeks ago, the program quickly reached its lending limit after approving nearly 1.7 million loans. That left thousands of small businesses in limbo as they sought help.

Thursday’s measure brings total rescue funding over the four measures, as measured by the cumulative deficit impact of spending proposals and tax cuts, to $2.4 trillion, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

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