Updated: Trump signs behemoth $2T COVID-19 response bill

U.S. Capitol | Susan J. Demas
Updated, 3:39 p.m., 3/27/20 with additional comments

WASHINGTON — A $2 trillion bill to aid workers, health care providers and businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic is poised to become law following its passage in the U.S. House on Friday. President Trump signed it Friday afternoon with a ceremony to which he only invited Republicans.

Many House members reconvened in Washington to approve the 880-page measure, which stands to be the largest economic aid package in U.S. history. The chamber passed the measure using a “voice vote” typically used for uncontroversial measures, despite the objection of one House Republican, U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky, who attempted to force a recorded vote.

U.S. Rep. Haley Stevens (D-Rochester Hills) wore latex gloves Friday as she delivered an impassioned speech on the House floor.

“Many Americans may perish unexpectedly and suddenly in unfair circumstances. These are not pleasant words to hear,” she said. “Listen to the scientists and the doctors who have spent a lifetime in this space. Listen to Dr. [Anthony] Fauci. This is not a moment to provide the false comforts of times past.”*

U.S. Senate COVID-19 aid package passes with Peters’ unemployment extension

U.S. Rep. Fred Upton (R-St. Joseph) said, “Let’s face it: coronavirus has totally disrupted our lives.”

“To all of us, it’s frightening; it’s a nightmare, he added. “This bill is a partial response to end that disruption. … To you who oppose this bill: Please, please stand down. We can’t wait another day to help. Don’t add to this disruption by, in fact, being a disruptor. Be a leader.”*

U.S. Rep. Paul Mitchel (R-Dryden) said, “Our country faces a public health and economic challenge unlike any we’ve experienced in 100 years. We must protect the health of the American people while also ensuring our economy is able to bounce back as the coronavirus subsides.”

He added that the bill is “certainly not perfect.” However, “we cannot delay, we cannot waver. We must ensure this aid is delivered to the American people as soon as possible.”*

U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Dearborn) had some progressive criticism of the package, but noted the some people need help right away.

“This bill does not go far enough. However, residents are in dire need of direct payments to help replace the loss of income they’ve experienced,” she said. “We know residents who are now unemployed can’t wait for an increase in unemployment insurance amounts. Small businesses and non-profits will now have access to loans that may be forgiven. Hospitals, health care facilities, and medical providers will receive $100 billion dollars to protect communities across the country. And the state of Michigan will receive nearly $3.9 billion in funding to help stop this pandemic, including $351 million for public transit systems and nearly $74 million for housing (HUD) emergency solution grants.”

2nd major coronavirus package clears Congress, 3rd in works

The massive bill — which would expand unemployment insurance, send direct checks to many Americans and offer financial aid to industries — cleared the U.S. Senate earlier this week. Trump had said Wednesday that he would “sign it immediately.”

No one loves the final package, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle insisted as they spoke on the House floor ahead of Friday’s vote. Still, most of them were willing to stomach provisions they disliked, arguing that acting swiftly to combat the public health and economic crisis was their top priority.

Among the bill’s key provisions:

  • A dramatic increase in unemployment insurance benefits. That would include about $600 per person per week in federal money, which would be in addition to what people get from states.
  • Direct checks of $1,200 per person for many adults and $500 for dependent children. The Washington Post created a stimulus payment calculator.
  • Forgivable loans for small businesses to cover payroll and other business costs.
  • A $500 billion loan program that would aid airlines and other large industries impacted by the crisis.
  • $150 billion in aid for states and local governments.
  • $100 billion for emergency funding for hospitals.

Lawmakers in both the House and Senate have stressed that additional response legislation will be necessary, but that they sought to quickly infuse cash into the health care system and the economy.

“We do know that we must do more … this cannot be our final bill,” U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Friday ahead of the bill’s passage. She said that state and local governments, as well as health care systems, will require more financial support.

Advance Editor Susan J. Demas contributed to this story.