The Senate just passed the largest rescue bill in American history, and it’s going to help a lot of the people who are struggling right now.
I have done everything I could to build bipartisan consensus and get this done. That’s not easy up in Washington under the best of times. Mitch McConnell's draft bill that the Senate voted down Sunday would have left a lot of people in the cold. At times over the last 72 hours, negotiations were heated, with five of my colleagues out due to the virus and its impact, but I believe we were all looking out for the long-term best interests of our country, our families, and the economy. We know the Coronavirus presents a challenge like none we have seen in our lifetimes.
But we got there and passed with a big bipartisan majority – a bill that will do the following to help those in need:
$130 billion in funds for hospitals, almost double what Mitch McConnell was proposing a few days ago. This will help them make sure they have the supplies they need to protect our doctors and nurses who are on the front lines.
$150 billion in funds for states. Mitch McConnell had provided them with no direct aid despite the fact that they have been forced to spend millions of dollars to make up for the inadequate federal response.
Unemployment benefits that leave no one behind. Senate Democrats won concessions that will provide unprecedented protections for our workers including four full months of unemployment benefits including full salaries. Benefits are also extended to self-employed workers AND workers in the gig economy.
Direct cash payments to most Americans. If you make under $75,000, you will receive $1200. The amount will phase out for those making more.
Protection for renters and homeowners. The aid package includes protections that prevent evictions during the crisis.
Loans for small businesses affected by Coronavirus. Senate Democrats worked to add direct grants that will help small businesses avoid red tape and get the money they need right away.
We were also able to remove Mitch McConnell's “anonymous bailout” language. After stories about members profiting off of stock sales in the midst of this crisis, I thought it was important that we prohibit elected officials, including the President, from receiving loans under this package.
This is a good start to get Americans the help they need right now.
Now it’s up to the House to pass this bill so we can keep rebuilding. But this crisis will demand more of each of us. This bill didn’t do everything I wanted, and I believe we will have to do more - and as this virus unfolds across our country, I have no doubt we will be back to add to the protections and support this bill provides.
We have more than four times the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the U.S than we did when this bill was introduced Thursday.
I know I keep quoting Smokey the Bear, but it’s really important to remember that while we are going to do everything we can in the Senate to ease the economic burden and keep you safe, YOU are the front lines of the fight against Coronavirus. But no vote in Washington is going to stop this virus. Only you can do that.
This is especially not the time to let up. I’m concerned that I am hearing talk of backsliding and even some of our public officials still underestimating the crisis we are in and the number of Americans that are at risk.
The experts keep saying that the only way we are going to drastically “flatten the curve” and reduce the number of critical cases is to continue social distancing. We all still have to do our part. The good news is that social distancing works. It’s up to you and every other American to do what the medical professionals are telling us.
We can and will beat this if we all do our part. We will make it through this together. The number of cases will continue to rise, but they will go down over time, and this will be over sooner if all of us do our part. I am doing everything I can to bring that day closer for all of us.
We are all in this together.
- Doug Jones