UPDATE, 3/19/20: Yesterday the Senate passed a second COVID-19 spending bill, known as “phase two,” and President Trump signed it. According to CBS News, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called the bill “a well-intentioned bipartisan product.”
CBS News added that a third phase is being proposed by the Trump Administration, “the administration asks for two rounds of direct cash payments to taxpayers, worth $250 billion each. The first payment would be made April 6, and the second would come on May 18.”
The third phase proposal also includes “$300 billion in small business loans, $50 billion for the airline industry and $150 billion for other ‘severely distressed’ industries.” CBS News stated that a “senior administration official confirmed” this report.
3/14/20: This past week, Live Action News reported that Speaker of the House, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), was allegedly attempting to pass a coronavirus relief bill without the protections of the Hyde Amendment, which bans federal funds from being used for abortions. An unnamed White House official had referred to the bill as a potential “slush fund,” for the abortion industry. With various abortion industry power players insisting that abortion should be made more accessible during this time of crisis — and some worrying that unintended pregnancies will skyrocket due to potential quarantine — the importance of ensuring that abortion was not funded in the name of coronavirus “relief” became more evident. Federal funding of abortions is not supported by the majority of Americans.
In the very early morning hours, a second relief bill — on the heels of the first, an $8.3B spending bill to address the COVID-19 pandemic — was passed in the House of Representatives by a vote of 363-40-1. CNBC reports that President Trump urged Republicans to join with Democrats to pass the bill. According to the news outlet, “House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has mentioned the need to pass a third measure to respond to the outbreak.”
Despite the earlier controversy surrounding Pelosi’s move to pass relief without Hyde protections, in the end, the health provisions that passed were targeted to COVID-19 without including unrelated treatments. This ensured that none of the federal funding going toward the COVID-19 epidemic will be used to pay for abortions.
Other Republican provisions that were included in the House bill were ensuring that testing for coronavirus remains free for Americans, providing a tax credit to employers to financially assist working Americans who may become ill or who otherwise cannot work due to quarantine or caregiving, increased access to telehealth services for those on Medicare, and more.
According to a document from the Appropriations Committee, the bill “provides an additional $2.5 billion in emergency supplemental appropriations for the U.S. response to coronavirus.” The bill includes, according to the document:
- $1.2 billion to help cover the costs of coronavirus testing, including $142 million to eliminate copay requirements for servicemembers and veterans.
- $1.25 billion to provide emergency nutritional assistance for senior citizens, women, children, and low-income families, including:
- $500 million for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children;
- $400 million for the Emergency Food Assistance Program;
- $100 million for the food assistance block grant programs of Puerto Rico, American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands; and
- $250 million for senior nutrition programs, including:
▪ $160 million for home-delivered meals,
▪ $80 million for meals at senior centers, and
▪ $10 million for meal services for Native Americans.
- The bill also includes several authorizing provisions with mandatory spending impacts, including increased funding and flexibility to provide low-income children with access to food when local school districts close.
- $15 million for the Internal Revenue Service to administer tax credits in the bill.
The bill now moves to the Republican-majority Senate for approval.
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