Here's what's in the $2 trillion stimulus package — and what's next
The biggest economic stimulus in American history is hurtling toward passage, but Washington’s colossal intervention to save the economy still chooses winners and losers among businesses and American workers.
The measure includes expanded worker protections Democrats demanded along with the $500 billion rescue fund Republicans pushed for to help beleaguered U.S. industries. Many Americans will get checks of $1,200 for individuals, $2,400 for married couples.
The hospital industry is getting what it asked for — $100 billion in rescue funds. But the oil industry is getting nothing, and neither are cruise companies. This gargantuan bill won’t make it to President Donald Trump’s desk without some last minute political angst: Sen. Bernie Sanders is threatening the bill because it doesn’t have enough restrictions on the business bailout and Republicans think the unemployment aid is too generous.
Here’s a look at who’s getting what, and why that matters:
Beefed-up unemployment benefits
What they got: People who are unemployed would get an extra $600 per week for up to four months, on top of state unemployment benefits to make up for 100 percent of lost wages. The final agreement provides an extra month of unemployment benefits than what Senate Republicans had originally sought.
Why it matters: A group of GOP senators threatened Wednesday to block a fast-tracked vote on the measure, arguing that some workers would actually get a raise over their actual pay. "We have incentivized people not to go back to work," Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said. Unemployment claims are also climbing by the tens of thousands every day in states across the country, and congressional negotiators acknowledge that benefits may need yet another boost through additional relief packages.
Loans to industries: $500 billion
What they got: The Treasury Department would divvy up a $500 billion pot of loans to struggling industries like airlines, and even cities and states.
Why it matters: Rules added to the bill will order an inspector general and accountability committee to oversee how the money is spent, rather than giving Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin broad power to cut the loan checks. Veterans of the 2008 bank bailout say, however, that the effectiveness of that oversight will only be as strong as the chosen watchdogs and how much power they really have.
Checks on the way
What they got: All U.S. residents with adjusted gross income up to $75,000 ($150,000 for married couples) would get a $1,200 ($2,400 for couples) “rebate” payment. They are also eligible for an additional $500 per child. The payments would start phasing out for earners above those income thresholds and would not go to single filers earning more than $99,000; head-of-household filers with one child, more than $146,500; and more than $198,000 for joint filers with no children.
Why it matters: People who don’t pay taxes, such as those with very low incomes, may be hard to reach the way the program is designed.
Hospitals gets their wish: $100 billion
What they got: Health care providers would secure $100 billion in grants to help fight the coronavirus and make up for dollars they have lost by delaying elective surgeries and other procedures to focus on the outbreak. They would also get a 20 percent bump in Medicare payments for treating patients with the virus.
Why it matters:This figure is exactly what three powerful groups representing physicians, hospitals and nurses had demanded, though for-profit hospitals were lobbying for much more. But there are still questions about whether there will be significant guardrails on how the money will be split up. The coronavirus will hit rural hospitals especially hard, since they already operate on thin margins and have limited staffing capacity. So some lawmakers have been working to ensure enough money goes to those sites.
Aid to airlines: $58 billion
What they got: Airlines would receive $29 billion in grants, and $29 billion in loans and loan guarantees, as well as a reprieve from paying three of their major excise taxes on the price of a ticket, the fuel tax and a cargo tax. That funding comes with strings, though — no stock buybacks, and limits on executive compensation, to start. Half the funds would go toward “the continuation of payment of employee wages, salaries, and benefits” while the other half would go to loans and loan guarantees for passenger airlines, repair stations and ticket agents — subject to conditions.
Why it matters: This is the amount that the industry sought. The bill doesn’t include some conditions that Democrats wanted, like commitments to cutting emissions. The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA cheered the bill, saying the grants in particular would “save hundreds of thousands of jobs.”
Prize for retaining payroll
What they got: Businesses would get a tax credit for keeping idled workers on their payrolls during the coronavirus pandemic, so long as the businesses meet certain criteria. They would get a refund for half of what they spend on wages, up to $5,000 per worker.
Why it matters: To qualify, businesses have to prove they took a 50 percent loss compared to the same quarter in years past. And to keep companies from double-dipping on aid under the bill, employers won’t be able to get special SBA loans if they opt for the tax credit.
State and local governments: $150 billion
What they got: The agreement would provide $150 billion for state and local governments, with $8 billion set aside for local governments, which are bleeding tax revenue as only essential businesses remain open and unemployment claims climb by the tens of thousands every day.
Why it matters: Congressional negotiators are already talking about a fourth legislative relief package that could include more money for state and local governments. Governors warned this week that their states are running out of funding to fulfill the skyrocketing number of unemployment claims, and could face multibillion-dollar budget shortfalls in the weeks and months to come. The funding the stimulus provides is only a “drop in the bucket” compared to the need, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.
Pentagon plus-up: $10.5 billion
What they got: The Defense Department would field an infusion of $10.5 billion, including $1.5 billion for the National Guard to deploy up to 20,000 on-call soldiers to help state response teams fight the coronavirus over the next six months. The bill would also spend $415 million on research and development work at the Pentagon, aimed at developing vaccines and antiviral medicine.
Why it matters: The bipartisan rescue package gives the DoD well above the $8.3 billion the Trump administration requested and what House Democrats wanted.
Minimal aid for insurers
What they got: Insurers wanted an emergency fund to offset big losses stemming from the pandemic, as well as premium subsidies to help fund temporary "COBRA" coverage for laid-off workers. They got none of that, although the legislation aims to protect them from price-gouging on coronavirus tests.
Why it matters: Officials in the health care industry don't really know how much money plans will lose during the crisis. While insurers are probably saving money from mass cancelations of expensive elective procedures, they are still bracing for unprecedented numbers of hospitalizations. Insurers also already got a $16 billion gift when Congress repealed Obamacare’s health insurance fee in December.
Employers and self-employed individuals
What they got: They would get to defer the 6.2 percent tax they pay on wages that is used to fund Social Security.
Why it matters: The deferred tax would have to be paid over the following two years: half by Dec. 31, 2021, and the other half by Dec. 31, 2022.
No cash for the oil stash
What they got: The bill does not include the $3 billion Trump sought to fulfill his promise this month of filling the country's oil stockpile "right up to the top" as a way to aid U.S. drillers amid a price decline. Democrats also failed to clinch language extending tax breaks for renewable energy industries.