A national emergency relief package to lessen the impact of the coronavirus on families is now a done deal. And more help is on the way with another financial rescue package in the works that may include $500 billion in direct cash payments to American households.
The President has signed the “Families First Coronavirus Response Act,” which had quickly passed through the House of Representatives and the Senate with strong bipartisan support. The new act allocates $100 billion in critical aid for families during the pandemic crisis. It supports early diagnosis and control of the spread of the illness. It also calls for significant increases in coronavirus-related paid leave, unemployment funding and food assistance.
The act, which officially goes into effect in two weeks, will provide:
- Free testing for the illness from private health insurers, including for the uninsured
- Two weeks of job-protected paid sick leave immediately for those infected with coronavirus, those taking care of sick family members or those whose children’s schools have closed, with up to three months of paid emergency leave during the time of the coronavirus crisis
- Expanded unemployment insurance of $2 billion for states to assist those who lose their jobs due to coronavirus impacts
- Enhanced funding of more than $1 billion for emergency food and nutrition programs for low-income families
The paid sick-leave provision covers employees only of businesses less than 500 workers that do not offer that benefit. Those businesses would receive reimbursements for some costs through tax credits. More than one million Arizona workers (based on 2015 figures) were employed by businesses of that size, but it is unclear how many have paid leave policies.
Congress now is moving to further mitigate the crippling financial effects of the pandemic crisis, including growing unemployment and financial hardship. Next up is a proposed $1 trillion economic stimulus package. It potentially includes two rounds of direct payments to U.S. citizens of $250 billion each.
“Americans need cash now,” Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said during a White House press briefing. “I mean now, in the next two weeks.”
Currently in negotiation in Congress, the package also would provide aid for the hardest-hit employers. It is said to propose $50 billion for the struggling airline industry, $150 billion for other hard-hit sectors of the economy and a loan program to support small businesses.
Like the “Families First” act, it is being fast-tracked due to the dire consequences of the coronavirus outbreak.