On March 25, 2020, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed S. 3548, titled the “Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act,” with a 96-0 vote. The legislation faced several days of bipartisan negotiation and last-minute opposition in the upper chamber, but compromises were reached between Democrat and Republican leadership by the end of the day, which allowed for the rare unanimous vote. In passing this legislation, the Senate propelled the CARES Act forward on the path towards becoming law. Leadership from both parties celebrated passage of the landmark legislation, which is a formidable stimulus package intended to address shockwaves that have been felt through the United States by the rapid spread of COVID-19.
Comprised of over $2 trillion in financial relief for many sectors of the U.S. economy and American families facing economic insecurity caused by COVID-19, the CARES Act contains several critical provisions, including:
- Providing financial assistance for many of the industries that have declined the most due to COVID-19;
- Providing direct financial relief for Americans who earn less than $99,000 per year;
- Providing loans for small businesses that create an incentive for them to maintain their staffing levels during the COVID-19 outbreak;
- A delay of the tax filing deadline for 2019 tax returns from April 15, 2020 to July 15, 2020;
- A historic expansion of unemployment benefits, increasing both maximum benefit amounts and the length of unemployment benefits;
- Allowing students to cancel student loans for periods during which they withdrew from an institution of higher learning;
- Suspension of student loan payment obligations for six months;
- A waiver of the 10 percent penalty for withdrawing funds from a retirement plan if the withdrawal is coronavirus-related;
- A requirement for the national strategic stockpile to include personal protective equipment, ancillary medical supplies, and other necessary health care supplies;
- Several provisions to increase patient access to care via telehealth; and
- Economic assistance to front-line health care workers to assist them during the COVID-19 outbreak.
The U.S. House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on the CARES Act today (March 27, 2020) by a voice vote. The legislation has a good chance of passing the lower chamber after the U.S. Senate demonstrated such strong bipartisan political will. However, last-minute objections could delay the process, which could leave many Americans and sectors of the U.S. economy without adequate resources while approaching a time of great economic uncertainty.
Read Majority Leader McConnell’s press release.
Read Minority Leader Schumer’s press release.
Read the text of the legislation.
Review a summary of the legislation’s provisions.