The House of Representatives has passed a coronavirus funding bill that will provide federal relief to areas across the nation as families are expected to undergo increasing economic strain.
According to CBS News, the bill includes funding for food security programs and a guaranteed 2-weeks of paid sick leave to employees at companies with fewer than 500 people. It also provides for increased funding for unemployment insurance and Medicaid, in addition to an emergency expansion to existing food service programs.
The bill, which was negotiated between Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, also ensures that both public and private medical care providers accommodate for free coronavirus testing.
According to The New York Times, 363 members of the House voted in favor of the bill, while 40 members – all Republicans – opposed the bill.
After the bill was passed, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) lauded the quick progress Mnuchin and Pelosi made on the deal, but encouraged Republican Senators to examine the 110-page bill carefully.
“The rough draft that Speaker Pelosi published Wednesday night fell far short of what American families and small businesses deserve,” said McConnell. “I want to commend Secretary Mnuchin for his hard work over the past two days to improve it.”
“Of course, Senators will need to carefully review the version just passed by the House. But I believe the vast majority of Senators in both parties will agree we should act swiftly to secure relief for American workers, families, and small businesses,” said the senator.
Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), the Senate minority leader, has also endorsed the bill, but in a statement publicly argued that Republicans didn’t go far enough with the legislation.
“Make no mistake: This legislation is very necessary but not sufficient,” said Schumer in a statement.
“There are still desperately needed steps that the Trump administration must take to ensure there is enough testing and treatment for everyone who needs it, as well as other broader economic measures that Senate Democrats outlined earlier this week to help states and local communities deal with the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak,” said Schumer.
According to The Washington Times, Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) has already declared he will oppose the bill, in part, because of the language on the paid sick-leave requirement.
“Although mandating that all employers must pay for sick leave might sound good, we need to consider the unintended consequences of this legislation. I fear that rather than offering a workable solution, the House bill will exacerbate the problem by forcing small businesses to pay wages they cannot afford and ‘helping’ them go further into debt,” said Johnson, reports the news agency.
President Trump encouraged Republicans on Friday evening to support the measure, emphasizing “that in no way will small business be hurt.”
According to The New York Times, the department of labor will have the authority to exempt sick-leave requirements for companies with fewer than 50 people that can demonstrate that the measure “would jeopardize the viability of the business as a growing concern.”