Democrats have called an aspect of the GOP bill a “slush fund” that would give Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (center) the ability to help industries without transparency. Drew Angerer/Getty Images
COVID-19

Senate fails to agree to $1.8 trillion COVID-19 relief

Janet Nguyen Mar 23, 2020
Democrats have called an aspect of the GOP bill a “slush fund” that would give Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (center) the ability to help industries without transparency. Drew Angerer/Getty Images

For the second day in a row, Congress has failed to reach an agreement over a nearly $2 trillion economic aid package as businesses across the country shutter and lay off their workers.

In a 49-46 vote, Senate Democrats blocked the bill on Monday, which would have needed 60 votes to move forward.

Democrats had previously rejected the GOP’s plans on Sunday in a 47-to-47 vote over concerns that the package prioritized bailouts for big companies over worker protections and that it failed to take into account hospitals and health care workers. Five Republican senators are in self-quarantine and have been unable to participate in these key votes.

The bill earmarks $500 billion to help out businesses like airlines and car manufacturers, including corporations like Boeing, which economists argue is too big to fail. That amount has been a major point of contention among Democrats, who have called it a “slush fund” and argued that it gives Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin the ability to help industries without transparency.

The GOP proposal would also send direct checks to Americans who make less than a certain threshold, with $1,200 going to adults and $500 to children.

About 281,000 Americans filed unemployment claims for the week of March 14 — a 70,000 increase from the week before. According to one estimate, 18% of U.S. workers have lost jobs or hours since the new coronavirus began to spread across America.

The steps being taken on Capitol Hill, or lack thereof, have shaken financial markets. At one point on Monday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average declined more than 800 points, before ultimately closing more than 580 points lower since Friday. Meanwhile, the S&P 500 dropped more than 67 points, or nearly 3%.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

What’s the latest on the extra COVID-19 unemployment benefits?

As of now, those $600-a-week payments will stop at the end of July. For many, unemployment payments have been a lifeline, but one that is about to end, if nothing changes. The debate over whether or not to extend these benefits continues among lawmakers.

With a spike in the number of COVID-19 cases, are restaurants and bars shutting back down?

The latest jobs report shows that 4.8 million Americans went back to work in June. More than 30% of those job gains were from bars and restaurants. But those industries are in trouble again. For example, because of the steep rise in COVID-19 cases in Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, increased restrictions on restaurant capacities and closed bars. It’s created a logistical nightmare.

Which businesses got Paycheck Protection Program loans?

The numbers are in — well, at least in part. The federal government has released the names of companies that received loans of $150,000 or more through the Paycheck Protection Program.

Some of the companies people are surprised got loans include Kanye West’s fashion line, Yeezy, TGI Fridays and P.F. Chang’s. The companies you might not recognize, particularly some smaller businesses, were able to hire back staff or partially reopen thanks to the loans.

You can find answers to more questions on unemployment benefits and COVID-19 here.

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