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Congress Passes $484 Billion Measure to Help Employers

Congress delivered on Thursday nearly $500 billion in coronavirus spending relief to employers and hospitals.

The measure passed with a 388-5 vote.

“Millions of people out of work,” said Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. “This is really a very, very, very sad day. We come to the floor with nearly 50,000 deaths, a huge number of people impacted, and the uncertainty of it all. We hope to soon get to a recovery phase. But right now we’re still in mitigation.”

Last week, the Paycheck Protection Program, which is intended to help small businesses with making payroll during the COVID-19 pandemic, ran out of funding earlier than expected. As that happened, it was discovered that several larger business and organizations, such as Shake Shack , Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse and Harvard University, had received funds.

Shake Shake and Ruth’s Chris announced this week that they would return the money they received.

President Trump said that other large companies would also need to pay back the money they received, and that the White House and Treasury Department plan to provide additional guidance for another round of funding.

The core of the $484 billion measure includes the Trump administration’s $250 billion funding request to help small- and medium-size businesses with payroll, rent and other expenses. The payroll program provides forgivable loans in order to allow businesses to continue paying their workers while they remain closed for social distancing and stay-at-home orders.

The bill adds $321 billion to the Paycheck Protection Program, with at least $60 billion of that going to guarantee loans made by smaller institutions, as well as credit unions and community financial institutions.

Another $75 billion would be used to reimburse health care providers for expenses or lost revenues from the novel coronavirus. In addition, $25 billion would go toward developing, purchasing, administering, processing, and analyzing COVID-19 tests.

Salaries and expenses, and loan programs of the Small Business Administration, would receive about $62 billion. That includes $10 billion for economic injury disaster loans.

President Trump commented at his daily White House briefing on Thursday. “At a time when many Americans are enduring significant economic challenges, this bill will help small businesses to keep millions of workers on the payroll.”

The measure brings the total federal rescue funding to $2.4 trillion, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

In related matter, the House also voted along party lines (212-182) Thursday to establish a special committee that would oversee how the Trump administration spends the funds Congress is providing to fight the coronavirus.

The bill now heads to President Trump’s desk for his signature.

More than 26 million Americans have filed for unemployment benefits in the past month.

Unemployment in the U.S. is approaching levels that were last seen during the Great Depression in the 1930s, according to new data that was released on Thursday.