WASHINGTON — All of Alabama members in the U.S. House of Representatives voted last week to approve a $484 billion package to help hospitals, small businesses, farms and other recipients cope with economic misfortune over the next few months of the coronavirus pandemic.
The House passed the measure April 23 on a vote of 388-5. The bill (HR 266) provides:
- $321 billion for a second round of Paycheck Protection Program forgivable loans to businesses with 500 or fewer employees, including a $60 billion set-aside for minority-owned companies and other enterprises overlooked in the first round because they lacked clout with banks. The loans will be converted to grants if the recipient retains workers now employed and rehires ones already dismissed during the pandemic.
- $75 billion to reimburse hospitals and other medical providers for losses attributable to the pandemic.
- $25 billion for state-level coronavirus testing while requiring an administration strategy for the large-scale, nationwide COVID-19 testing deemed necessary for sustained economic recovery.
- $62 billion to leverage hundreds of millions in repayable Small Business Administration disaster loans to faltering enterprises, including family farms and agribusiness spreads.
Congress has now enacted four coronavirus relief packages totaling more than $2.7 trillion since March 6. It previously approved:
- $8.3 billion for purposes including the provision of test kits, masks and ventilators; research into vaccines and diagnostic and therapeutic procedures; expansion of hospital surge capacity, and support of state and local preparedness.
- $100 billion to fund, in part, free virus testing for all Americans who request it along with paid sick leave and paid family and medical leave for workers impacted by the pandemic at firms with fewer than 500 employees.
- $2.2 trillion to fund round one of the PPP for small businesses; direct payments to larger companies; $600 weekly in added jobless benefits, and payments of $1,200 to individuals and $2,400 to couples plus $500 per child up to specified earning levels.
Brad Sherman, D-Calif., praised the latest bill but said “we need to shift from the economic to the biological focus on defeating this disease. So far, only one-tenth of 1 percent of the coronavirus money has gone for medical research to prevent and treat the virus.”
Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., said the bill leaves unanswered “the question of how much longer the American people acquiesce to unconstitutional and crushing government action. We need to open up America now. I call on our governors to free their citizens immediately.”
A yes vote was to send the bill to President Trump, who signed it into law. The Senate had already passed the bill on a non-record vote.
Voting yes on the bill from Alabama were: Bradley Byrne, R-1, Martha Roby, R-2, Mike Rogers, R-3, Robert Aderholt, R-4, Mo Brooks, R-5, Gary Palmer, R-6, and Terri Sewell, D-7.
Overseeing Trillions in Coronavirus Spending:
Alabama representatives were not as united on a resolution (H Res 938) that would create a special committee armed with subpoena power to oversee the administrations distribution of coronavirus relief funding expected to top $3 trillion this year. The panel also will examine any private-sector price gouging.
The House approved the resolution April 23 on a 212-182 vote.
The House Select Committee on the Coronavirus Crisis, composed of members from both parties, will be chaired by James Clyburn, D-S.C., and controlled by the Democratic majority. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said it would be patterned after a committee established by then-Sen. Harry Truman of Missouri to police fraud and waste in the Roosevelt Administration’s World War II military spending. But Republicans called it a vehicle to disparage President Trump in a presidential election year.
James Comer, R-Ky, said: “America’s families are suffering right now. But instead of helping American families, Speaker Pelosi wants to set up a new, costly, unnecessary select committee. This is an outrageous attempt to yet again use Congress to smear President Trump in an election year, just like their impeachment charade a few months ago.”
Jim McGovern, D-Mass., said: “When it comes to $2 trillion, I don’t think there can be enough oversight. My constituents are puzzled as to why some of the money that was designed to go to small businesses ended up going to mega-businesses like Shake Shack or Ruth’s Chris Steak House.”
A yes vote was to establish a coronavirus oversight committee.
Voting yes: Sewell
Voting no: Byrne, Roby, Rogers, Aderholt, Brooks, Palmer.
KEY VOTES AHEAD
Congress is in recess until the week of May 4.