WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-Ala.) last night voted to pass a strengthened version of the Senate’s third major COVID-19 economic relief package. After the measure failed to earn enough votes to advance on Sunday evening, negotiations continued and the final bill now includes significant improvements to help workers, health care providers, and others who are most vulnerable to the economic fallout of COVID-19.
“I’m relieved that we were able to continue negotiations to create a bipartisan package that meets Alabama’s critical needs and provides money for the millions of folks who have been laid off across the country. From robust funding for hospitals and community health centers, to loans and grants to small businesses to keep their doors open and workers employed, this bill will provide help for the people in Alabama who need it most,” said Senator Jones, who is a member of both the Senate health and banking committees. “While this is another major step to provide relief for Americans who are struggling right now, Congress and the Administration must continue to work to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to prevent the spread of this virus and to provide working people and small businesses with the help they need to keep their heads above water.”
New provisions in the final bill that were not included in Sunday’s package:
- Unemployment Insurance: Up to 4 months of unemployment insurance benefits instead of 3 months, with an additional $600 benefit per week. In total, unemployed workers could receive 39 weeks of unemployment benefits, through the end of 2020.
- Health Care System: $55 billion increase from previous drafts, for a total of $150 billion to help hospitals and health care providers who are on the front lines of this pandemic.
- Increased Funding for States and Local Governments: $150 billion for a state, tribal, and local Coronavirus Relief fund. Alabama will receive no less than $1.25 billion under this fund.
- Supporting Students and Schools: includes $30.75 billion for Education Stabilization Fund, provides federal student loan cancelation for students who withdrew due to COVID-19, and suspends federal student loan payments without accrual of interest until September 30, 2020
- Additional Assistance for Small Businesses: $10 billion for SBA emergency grants of up to $10,000 to provide immediate relief for small business operating costs.
Senator Jones advocated for specific Alabama priorities in this bill, including:
- Jones-Cassidy legislation requiring insurance companies to cover the costs of a future approved COVID-19 vaccine.
- $1 billion to Historically Black Colleges and other minority-serving institutions.
- Jones-Brown legislation to prevent landlords from evicting renters during the coronavirus crisis.
- Jones-Rounds legislation to establish a Ready Reserve Corps to ensure vital health care jobs are filled when disasters strike in the United States.
- Jones-Toomey legislation to fix a drafting error in current tax law and help spur Main Street investments.
- Jones proposal to help small business continue to make payroll for employees through payroll providers.
Other important provisions for Alabama workers and businesses include:
- Direct payments of up to $1,200 for single tax-filers that make $75,000 or less, and $2,400 for joint tax-filers that make $150,000 or less. Families would receive an additional $500 per child.
- Extends the federal tax filing deadline from April 15 to July 15.
- Expands unemployment benefits to allow part-time, self-employed, gig economy, and furloughed workers to access UI benefits.
- Sets aside $15.5 billion in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) contingency reserve.
- Provides $3.5 billion in additional funding to provide child care assistance to health care sector employees, emergency responders, sanitation workers, and other workers deemed essential during the response to the coronavirus regardless of income eligibility requirements.
As Congress looks to draft future relief packages, Senator Jones will continue to work toward including important policies like expanding early voting and vote-by-mail, and incentives for states to expand Medicaid.