Congress Passes COVID-19 Relief Bill
by Madison Jarnot
On Friday, March 27, President Trump signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, a bipartisan bill providing monetary aid to people and businesses who are impacted by the novel coronavirus.
“I signed the single biggest economic relief package in American history. It’s twice as large as any relief ever signed,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office after signing the bill. “This will deliver urgently needed relief to our nation’s families, workers, and businesses, and that’s what this is all about.”
The bill provides funding to the Department of Education to defer all student loan and interest payments until Sept. 30. This period of time will still count toward the required number of payments for borrowers who are enrolled in loan forgiveness programs, too.
It also gives direct funding to universities to help pay students for work-study jobs they lost and forgive the debt of anyone forced to drop out due to COVID-19.
The CARES Act’s stimulus package includes $2.2 trillion in aid altogether, giving $153.5 billion to the private healthcare sector, $339.8 billion for state and local governments, $500 billion to large corporations, and $377 billion for small businesses.
The aid large corporations receive will be loans, while small businesses can apply for grants they won’t need to pay back. Small businesses who take out loans to cover payroll will also be eligible for loan forgiveness.
“We’re going to keep our small businesses strong and our big businesses strong,” Trump said. “And that’s keeping our country strong and our jobs strong.”
The bill was criticized by some Democrats for the amount of funding big corporations get. Democrats also condemned Trump for overriding a CARES Act provision that established a Special Inspector General for Pandemic Recovery (SIGPR) to monitor corporations who received aid.
The bill originally allowed the SIGPR to audit large businesses to examine where they’ve spent the money, ensuring it wasn’t invested or used for other purposes prohibited under the CARES Act. It also required the SIGPR to report businesses who are uncooperative to Congress.
After Trump signed the bill, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) tweeted: “and just like that, the Congressional oversight provisions for the ½ trillion dollar Wall St[reet] slush fund (which were already too weak) are tossed away the day the bill is signed.”
The CARES Act includes funding for direct payments to some individuals via the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) as well.
In order to qualify for a payment, individuals must be U.S. citizens who filed a federal tax return for 2018 or 2019 (citizens who receive Social Security benefits and don’t typically file tax returns will not need to file one in order to receive aid).
The payments will vary depending on income, but most people will receive approximately $1,200. Adults with dependents who are 17 years old or younger will receive an additional $500 per dependent.
Individuals who make more than $99,000 per year and married couples who make over $198,000 per year will not be eligible. Anyone who is over the threshold but has multiple children may still be eligible to receive payments.
Anyone who is a dependent, meaning someone else claims them on a tax return, will not receive money, which precludes most college students.
Democrats, including Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), already have plans to pass another relief bill. Pelosi told reporters she hopes to introduce at least one more bill as soon as the house reconvenes.
“[This is] essential because of the historic nature of the health and economic emergency that we are confronting,” Pelosi said.
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