Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and incoming White House Chief of Staff Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) head to a meeting with Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY). Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
COVID-19

What the $2 trillion economic stimulus package will mean for you

Janet Nguyen Mar 27, 2020
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and incoming White House Chief of Staff Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) head to a meeting with Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY). Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

This post was updated on March 27 at 6:20 p.m. Eastern time.

President Donald Trump has signed into law a $2 trillion economic stimulus package — the largest economic rescue measure in history — to help businesses and employees affected by the COVID-19 crisis. 

Since the novel coronavirus began spreading across the U.S., businesses across the country have shuttered and laid off workers. For the week of March 21, about 3.3 million had filed unemployment claims — the largest number on record.

Here’s the type of relief that the bill is expected to include:

1) Direct checks: $1,200 will go toward adults and $500 to children based on 2018 tax returns or — if they’ve already filed — 2019 returns.

However, there are stipulations. That $1,200 would go to individuals making up to $75,000, while $2,400 would go to couples who made up to $150,000.

Payments will be reduced for individuals and couples making more than that amount — until they hit a threshold. Financial assistance will not be granted to individuals making more than $99,000 and couples earning more than $198,000.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a CNN interview that President Donald Trump wants the checks to be sent out starting April 6. However, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, who served on President Bush’s Council of Economic Advisors and is currently president of the American Action Forum, says it will take six weeks at minimum to get a plan like this set up and executed.

2) Expanded unemployment benefits: Workers in most states are currently eligible for up to 26 weeks of benefits — that will now be extended to 39 weeks.

The bill will also give Americans an extra $600 a week, for four months, on top of the maximum unemployment benefits states already dole out.

Gig workers, furloughed employees, and freelancers will be eligible.

3) Small business aid: $377 billion, largely in the form of loans, will be set aside.

4) Corporate aid: The Treasury Department will have the authority to provide $500 billion in loans (or other forms of investment) to cities, states, and corporations, including airlines and major manufacturers like Boeing.

That amount had been a major point of contention among Democrats, who had called it a “slush fund” and argued that it would give Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin the ability to help industries without transparency.

However, a special oversight committee will now be implemented. According to the Project on Government Oversight, it will collect and publish quarterly reports from recipients of the stimulus funds, and have a special inspector general.

The bill also bans companies from stock buybacks for a year after their loans are paid back.

5) Health care assistance: $150 billion will go to hospitals and other medical facilities. Some of this amount will be dedicated to testing supplies; new construction to house patients; and emergency operation centers.


COVID-19 Economy FAQs

Millions of Americans are unemployed, but businesses say they are having trouble hiring. Why?

This economic crisis is unusual compared to traditional recessions, according to Daniel Zhao, senior economist with Glassdoor. “Many workers are still sitting out of the labor force because of health concerns or child care needs, and that makes it tough to find workers regardless of what you’re doing with wages or benefits,” Zhao said. “An extra dollar an hour isn’t going to make a cashier with preexisting conditions feel that it’s safe to return to work.” This can be seen in the restaurant industry: Some workers have quit or are reluctant to apply because of COVID-19 concerns, low pay, meager benefits and the stress that comes with a fast-paced, demanding job. Restaurants have been willing to offer signing bonuses and temporary wage increases. One McDonald’s is even paying people $50 just to interview.

Could waiving patents increase the global supply of COVID-19 vaccines?

India and South Africa have introduced a proposal to temporarily suspend patents on COVID-19 vaccines. Backers of the plan say it would increase the supply of vaccines around the world by allowing more countries to produce them. Skeptics say it’s not that simple. There’s now enough supply in the U.S that any adult who wants a shot should be able to get one soon. That reality is years away for most other countries. More than 100 countries have backed the proposal to temporarily waive COVID-19 vaccine patents. The U.S isn’t one of them, but the White House has said it’s considering the idea.

Can businesses deny you entry if you don’t have a vaccine passport?

As more Americans get vaccinated against COVID-19 and the economy continues reopening, some businesses are requiring proof of vaccination to enter their premises. The concept of a vaccine passport has raised ethical questions about data privacy and potential discrimination against the unvaccinated. However, legal experts say businesses have the right to deny entrance to those who can’t show proof.

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