Posted on March 22, 2020
WASHINGTON, March 22, 2020 — "This is about your paycheck," Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said today in describing a collection of Republican and Democrat senators' ideas that he said will generate trillions in economic support to help keep employees on payrolls and to relieve Americans' financial burden while containing COVID-19. He said that about $1.7 trillion is federal spending. The legislation also authorizes the Federal Reserve Board and the Treasury to create trillions more in financial support. Alexander is chairman of the Senate's Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee.
“In the end,” Alexander said, “the only way to get the American economy moving again is to contain the disease. That will require, as soon as possible, adopting a new goal: Test every American who needs it for COVID-19. Then isolate and care for the few who are sick, and fast-track treatments and a vaccine so that Americans can go back to work and resume our everyday lives.”
The legislation makes all COVID-19 tests free.
“The government has shut down the economy to fight this disease and the government has to help pay the cost of the suffering that this disease has caused,” he said.
“But the sooner we make more tests available and stop telling Americans not to get a test, the better,” the senator said. “Just yesterday, a California company announced a 45-minute test that can be taken in a doctor’s office while also getting a flu test. Expanding tests like this will do more to get the economy moving again than spending trillions stabilizing businesses and supporting employees.”
Alexander said the legislation that the Senate will consider has three goals: One, keep payroll checks coming to workers during the crisis; two, relieve financial burdens on Americans during the crisis; and, three, contain the disease.
Keep Payroll Checks Coming to Workers:
- $300 billion for loans to small businesses, and if they use the loan to pay wages the loan will be forgiven (Paycheck Protection Program)
- Authorizes the Federal Reserve Board and the Treasury Department to create trillions more in financial support for states, cities, and large businesses so they will be able to stay in business.
- Expands the emergency paid sick and family leave to workers who were laid off and later rehired by their employers
- Checks to individuals and families:
- $1,200 for individuals and $2,400 for a couple
- $500 for each eligible child
- Federal income taxes don’t have to be filed until July 15, estimated taxes can be delayed until October 15, and will make it easier to use retirement savings without penalty
- All student loan payments delayed for 6 months
- More federal funding for state Unemployment Insurance programs so states can increase benefits, waive the waiting week, and expands eligibility to self-employed and independent contractors
- $186 billion for programs that will go to state and local governments, including:
- $10 billion for block grants to states
- $12 billion for K-12 education
- $6 billion for higher education
- $4.4 billion to help children and families, including $3 billion for Child Care Development Block Grants, which will provide immediate assistance to child care centers
Contain the Disease:
- Make all COVID-19 tests free
- Nearly $100 billion for the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund:
- $75 billion for hospitals
- $10.5 billion for diagnostics, treatments and vaccines
- $1.7 billion for the Strategic National Stockpile
- $4.5 billion for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
- $1.5 billion for state and local preparedness and response grants
- $500 million to improve public health surveillance
- $80 million for the Food and Drug Administration for diagnostics, treatments and vaccines
- $1.32 billion for Community Health Centers (1,400 centers with 12,000 sites) for COVID-19
- $20 billion for veterans health care