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WASHINGTON -- The House rushed President Donald Trump a $2.2 trillion rescue package Friday, tossing a life preserver to a U.S. economy and health care system left flailing by the coronavirus pandemic.
The House approved the sweeping measure by voice vote, as strong majorities of both parties lined up behind the most colossal economic relief bill in the nation's history.
Trump said he would sign the measure immediately, as the virus' death toll in the U.S. surpassed 1,300 and the number of confirmed infections spiraled above 93,000, including over 2,000 in Georgia and 19 in Forsyth County. A record 3.3 million people filed for jobless benefits last week as growing numbers of companies lock their doors.
The bill finances a response with a price tag that equals half the size of the entire $4 trillion-plus annual federal budget. The $2.2 trillion estimate is the White House's best guess of the spending it contains.
Here's a breakdown of the bill:
● One-time direct payments to Americans of $1,200 per adult making up to $75,000 a year and $2,400 to a married couple making up to $150,000, with $500 payments per child;
● Additional $600 per week tacked onto regular state jobless payments through the end of July;
● $150 billion to state and local governments to help them provide basic and emergency services during the crisis;
● $454 billion program for guaranteed, subsidized loans to larger industries in hopes of leveraging up to $4.5 trillion in lending to distressed businesses, states, and municipalities. All will be up to the Treasury Department’s discretion, though businesses controlled by Trump or immediate family members and by members of Congress will be ineligible;
● $150 billion devoted to the health care system, including $100 billion for grants to hospitals and other health care providers buckling under the strain of COVID-19 caseloads;
● Employee retention tax credit that's estimated to provide $50 billion to companies that retain employees on payroll and cover 50% of workers' paycheck up to $10,000;
● Companies will be able to defer payment of the 6.2% Social Security payroll tax;
● A huge tax break for interest costs and operating losses limited by the 2017 tax overhaul was restored at a $200 billion cost in a boon for the real estate sector;
● $45 billion to fund additional relief through the Federal Emergency Management Agency for local response efforts and community services.
The bill is unlikely to be the end of the federal response. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said issues like more generous food stamp payments, aid to state and local governments and family leave may be revisited in subsequent legislation.
Key elements of the legislation are untested, such as the grants to small businesses to keep workers on payroll and complex lending programs to larger businesses.
Policymakers worry that bureaucracies like the Small Business Administration may become overwhelmed, and conservatives fear that the generous unemployment benefit will dissuade jobless people from returning to the workforce. The $500 billion subsidized lending program for larger businesses is unproven as well.