On March 14, 2020, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the second coronavirus relief package, titled the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which provides additional resources for Americans during the coronavirus outbreak. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act follows the first relief package that was signed into law on March 6, 2020, which was titled the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act. The first relief package authorized $8.3 billion in additional funds to federal agencies, including $3.1 billion in additional funds for the United States to purchase of vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics to help the government respond to coronavirus, $300 million to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for global disease detection and emergency response, and $836 million to the National Institutes of Health to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus.
After the House passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, the Senate voted to pass the legislation on March 18, 2020, and it was subsequently signed into law by the President. The legislation moved quickly, as two members of Congress have tested positive for coronavirus and lawmakers did not want to contribute to the spread of the virus by convening for an extended duration. The second relief package provides over $850 billion in relief to Americans, in the form of paid sick leave and nutrition assistance for individuals affected by coronavirus, expanded unemployment benefits, and free coronavirus testing for all Americans regardless of their source of insurance. These new resources come at a critical time, as confirmed U.S. coronavirus cases have exceeded 9,000 nationally and American families are beset with economic anxiety due to the stock market’s volatility following the coronavirus outbreak. However, hope for the future remains strong as Roche continues development of a treatment for COVID-19 and Moderna Therapeutics has launched human trials for a COVID-19 vaccine.
Less than 24 hours after the Families First Coronavirus Response Act was enacted, negotiations over a third relief package have already begun. The White House has indicated that it supports the framework for a third relief package that was proposed by the U.S. Treasury on March 18, 2020. This proposal is valued at over $1 trillion and is designed to minimize the economic damage caused by the coronavirus outbreak. Notably, the Treasury’s proposal includes two installments of means-tested direct payments to U.S. taxpayers, worth $250 billion each. The Treasury proposed to have the U.S. Internal Revenue Service manage the payments and to distribute the funds on April 6 and May 18, 2020. The Treasury’s proposal also contains a bailout for the airline industry and other critical sectors of the U.S. economy that are experiencing financial distress caused by the coronavirus outbreak. Additionally, the proposal would provide $300 billion in loans for employers with less than 500 employees, which would allow the employers to pay their employees for eight weeks following receipt of the funds. The Treasury’s proposal will likely be reflected in legislation that will soon be introduced in Congress, though the details are still being negotiated. In the meantime, the administration has urged Americans to practice social distancing to slow the spread of the virus. Many seclude themselves at home as no one knows for certain how long it will be until the outbreak is contained.