Mar. 26--An unprecedented $2 trillion stimulus package to help with the medical and financial crises caused by the coronavirus pandemic has been crafted by the U.S. Senate with support from Pennsylvania's two senators, Bob Casey Jr. and Pat Toomey.
"I think it starts with the basics of what people need," Casey, a Democrat, said during a conference call with reporters. "In this crisis, we've got to have direct support for people that need it right away."
The bill would provide $600 per week in federal money -- on top of already existing state contributions -- to unemployed workers.
Citizens would also receive one-time direct payments from the federal government -- $1,200 for individual taxpayers making $75,000 or less and $2,400 for married couples earning up to $150,000, plus $500 per dependent child. Payments would scale down and then be eliminated for singles making above $99,000 or couples with no children and more than $198,000 in income.
Toomey said the money will help people get through the "terrifying circumstance of being unable to go to work" since "in Pennsylvania, our economy is closed."
Toomey, a Republican, said: "I'm really hopeful and I'm pretty confident that between those two items -- between the very generous unemployment benefits and the check in the mail -- people who are out of work are going to be able to get through this very difficult time."
The Senate version includes $500 billion for larger companies that -- when coupled with money from the Federal Reserve -- could reach $4 trillion total for what Toomey called broad-based lines of credit. The plan will also provide more than $350 billion through a small-business loan program that would be administered by banks and guaranteed by the federal government.
"The amount of the loan that is used for covering payroll, the cost of employees and just a few other necessary costs of business, that amount is going to be forgiven," Toomey said. "So what it really means is the federal government is paying the payroll for small business."
There is also $150 billion for hospitals and other health care providers.
"We can't even begin to say we're on the right track until we have the pandemic itself, the virus, in a place where if it's not under control we at least push it back," Casey said. "You can't do that without a substantial investment in health care."
The U.S. House of Representatives will work on its version of the bill.
Any final piece of legislation will need to be signed by President Donald Trump.
And then the federal government would begin to put the plan into action.
"I like to say when a big bill like this passes and it's signed into law, you're only about 25% of the way there because the work after the bill is signed into law, getting it implemented, getting dollars out the door, getting people the help they need right away, is going to be a huge challenge for the Administration, but they have to do it," Casey said.
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