U.S. Senate

The United States Senate unanimously passed the $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) on March 25 as the biggest stimulus package ever passed.

The CARES Act provides resources for state and local governments straining from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill includes support for hospitals and care workers; funding for medical equipment; support for law enforcement and first responders; funding for scientists researching treatments and vaccines; aid for small business; support for local schools and universities; and funding for affordable housing and homelessness assistance programs.

U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-Ala.) commented on the passing of the bill on March 26.

“I’m relieved that we were able to continue negotiations to create a bipartisan package that meets Alabama’s critical needs and provides money for the millions of folks who have been laid off across the country,” Jones said. “From robust funding for hospitals and community health centers, to loans and grants to small businesses to keep their doors open and workers employed, this bill will provide help for the people in Alabama who need it most.”

Fellow U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) also applauded the passing of the bill.

“This comprehensive package will bring much-needed relief for the people of Alabama and our nation during this mounting emergency,” Senator Shelby said. “I am glad we have finally been able to advance these resources and help Americans throughout the country.

“I am confident that this legislation will pave the way for us to overcome the current economic and public health crisis we are facing, allowing us to emerge stronger on the other side.”

The updated bill was passed unanimously with a 96-0 vote with four senators not being in attendance to vote. Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) was not in attendance for the vote after being diagnosed with COVID-19, while Senators Mitt Romney (R-UT) and Mike Lee (R-UT) were both in isolation after being in contact with Senator Paul. The only other senator to not cast a vote was Senator John Thune (R-SD) who missed the vote after “feeling ill.”

Provisions in the updated bill include up to four months of unemployment insurance benefits – rather than three in the original bill – with an additional $600 benefit per week. In total, unemployed workers could receive 39 weeks of unemployment through the end of 2020.

An additional $55 billion – increasing the total number to $150 billion – was added in the new bill to go to hospitals and health care providers. An additional $150 billion will go to state, tribal and local Coronavirus Relief funds. According to Jones, no less than $1.25 billion will go to Alabama. Shelby said that more than 80 percent of the total $339.855 billion going to emergency supplemental appropriations to aid Americans during the COVID-19 crisis will go directly to state and local governments.

Also, $10 billion will go towards SBA emergency grants – of up to $10,000 each – to provide immediate relief for small business operating costs.

In addition, payments of up to $1,200 for single tax-filers – making $75,000 or less per year – and $2,400 for joint tax-filers that make $150,000 or less per year will go out to taxpayers, as well. Families will also receive an additional $500 per child.

The federal tax filing deadline has also been extended to July 15 and expands unemployment benefits to allow part-time, self-employed, gig economy and furloughed workers to access unemployment benefits. Additionally $15.5 billion will also be set aside for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) contingency reserve.

“While this is another major step to provide relief for Americans who are struggling right now, Congress and the Administration must continue to work to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to prevent the spread of the virus and to provide working people and small businesses with the help they need to keep their heads above water,” Jones said.

The plan moved to the House of Representatives on March 27 and was passed. At 4:00 p.m. on March 27, President Donald Trump signed the bill into law.

Breakdown of measures contained in the CARES Act that will impact Alabama:

$150 billion for state and local governments

$45 billion to FEMA Disaster Relief Fund

$1.5 billion for state and local Preparedness Grants

$3.5 billion for Child Care Development Block Grants

$250 million for Hospital Preparedness

$100 billion for Reimbursements for Health Care Providers

$30.75 billion for the Education Stabilization Fund

$400 million for First Responder Grants

$10 billion for Airport Improvements Grants

$1.5 billion for Economic Development Administration Grants

$450 million for Emergency Food Assistant Program

$350 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program

$349 billion for Small Business Administration Loan Guarantees

$425 million for Mental and Behavioral Health Services

$265 million for Small Business Grants and Counseling, Training and Related Assistance

$300 million or Fishery Disaster Assistance

$850 million for Byrne JAG Grants

$23.5 billion for Support for Agricultural Producers

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