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The Coronavirus: Washington Responds

In an unusual demonstration of responsible bipartisanship, Democratic leaders and President Trump agreed on legislation passed late last night to help the nation get through the coronavirus pandemic. Now, we'll see if #MoscowMitch holds things up, or if the Senate acts in America's best interest, as well.

While the bill was passed 363-40 by the House of Representatives, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell just two days ago said the House Democrats' bill was nothing more than an "ideological wish list".

Today he cautioned that Senate Republicans would have to thoroughly examine the Trump-endorsed legislation when it takes it up next week, although he said it likely will be approved. It should be noted that the 40 negative votes in the House were cast by Republicans.

Just four days ago I suggested in a blog that Trump and Democrats would have a tough time reaching agreement on an effective package and predicted that weeks would pass before such legislation could pass. I was wrong, and was shocked when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Trump actually negotiated a compromise bill, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which Pelosi rammed through the House of Representatives.

Per The Washington Post, here's what is included in the legislation:

  • Free coronavirus testing: Federal health providers such as Medicare and Medicaid, and private health insurers, are required to provide free testing.

  • Expanded funding for food security programs: The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women Infants and Children, the Emergency Food Assistance Program and the Senior Nutrition Program will receive supplemental funding to assist Americans affected by the virus. The package also provides funding for state waivers to pay for meals for children who normally receive them at school.

  • Emergency family and sick leave: Employees of companies with fewer than 500 employees and government staffers may take up to 12 weeks of protected family and medical leave, including two weeks at full pay, with any additional weeks taken with no less than two-thirds of the employee's usual pay, to either quarantine or seek preventative care. Small and mid-sized businesses would receive tax credits to pay for medical and family leave of up to 100% of the wages they pay out. Employers with fewer than 500 employees are required to provide two weeks of sick leave at full pay for employees who are seeking treatment for the virus. Self-employed individuals would also receive tax credits to receive paid leave. Workers would be eligible for paid sick leave if they have a child whose school or childcare facility is closed due to the coronavirus. These employees are required to receive not less than two-thirds of their regular pay. 

  • Unemployment insurance: States will receive additional funding to provide unemployment insurance should there be an increase in uninsured people.

  • Medicaid funding: The bill would strip employment requirements for Medicaid, and increase Medicaid funding through 2021.

Notably missing is President Trump's announced plan to eliminate the payroll tax on companies and individuals until the end of the year, as well as the tax cuts he said would be provided for companies in the tourism industry that are adversely affected by the outbreak. However, he is said to be planning to push those tax benefits in separate legislation.

Also missing was the Democrats' broad proposal to establish a permanent paid sick leave entitlement for all families.

Tump indicated his support yesterday:

“Good teamwork between Republicans & Democrats as the House passes the big CoronaVirus Relief Bill. People really pulled together,” he tweeted. “Nice to see!”

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