WASHINGTON, DC -- Democrats powered a massive $3 trillion coronavirus relief bill through U.S. House passage Friday evening on a vote of 208 to 199, an election-year measure designed to brace a U.S. economy in free fall and a health care system struggling to contain a pandemic still pummeling the country.
Passage, along mostly partisan lines, advanced a Democratic opening bid to difficult talks with the White House and Senate Republicans. The measure is likely be the last major Covid-19 response bill before November's presidential and congressional elections.
The enormous Democratic measure will cost more than the prior four coronavirus bills combined. It would deliver almost $1 trillion for state and local governments, another round of $1,200 direct payments to individuals and help for the unemployed, renters and homeowners, college debt holders and the struggling Postal Service.
Highlights of the Democratic bill:
FISCAL AID TO STATES AND LOCAL GOVERNMENTS
The Democratic bill provides more than $900 billion to states ($500 billion), local governments ($375 billion), as well as Indian tribes and territorial governments ($40 billion) to help prevent layoffs of public workers, cuts to services, or tax hikes.
Adds a second round of direct payments to individuals and makes those benefits more generous than an earlier round, which limited payments for dependent children to $500. Instead, it provides new payments of $1,200 per family member, up to $6,000 for a household.
HAZARD PAY FOR ESSENTIAL WORKERS
Creates a $200 billion “heroes fund” that would provide a “hazard pay” supplement for essential workers such as first responders, health care workers, sanitation workers, and those at businesses required to stay open.
Extends a $600 per week federal unemployment benefits supplemental payment through January, 2021, instead of cutting it off at the end of July.
Provides $25 billion for the cash-strapped U.S. Postal Service, which is expected to run out of money by the end of September without congressional aid because it’s losing so much revenue during the pandemic. The measure also would repeal several restrictions on a $10 billion line of credit for the Postal Service authorized in a previous economic rescue bill.
Provides $175 billion to states to help renters and homeowners pay mortgages, rent, and other housing costs and avoid default, with much of the money aimed at lower-income people.
Provides $15 billion for state transportation departments for highway needs and $16 billion to mass transit systems hit by a massive drop-off of ridership and lower income from fares.
Dedicates $100 billion to states, school districts, and universities to defray additional costs associated with the pandemic.
TESTING/AID TO HEALTH PROVIDERS
Provides $75 billion on top of earlier outlays to test for the coronavirus, perform contact tracing to track its spread, and treatment for COVID-19. Adds another $100 billion for hospitals and other health care providers.
PRIVATE HEALTH INSURANCE
Provides subsidies for laid off workers to remain on their employer-provided health insurance plans through so-called COBRA benefits and creates an open enrollment period to sign up for “Obamacare” policies on state and federal health insurance exchanges.