Lawmakers are continuing talks on a “phase four” economic relief package in response to the COVID-19 global pandemic. To that end, the House’s “CARES 2” package is currently in the works and could see a floor vote as early as this month.
President Trump signed into law the $2 trillion bipartisan Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act ( P.L. 116-127) on March 27. The CARES Act is known on Capitol Hill as the third phase of legislation aimed to address the national emergency. However, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has said that a House floor vote on a “CARES 2” package could happen later in April.
“The acceleration of the coronavirus crisis demands that we continue to legislate,” Pelosi said in a “Dear Colleagues” letter sent out to members during the week of April 6. “We must double down on the down-payment we made in the CARES Act by passing a CARES 2 package, which will extend and expand this bipartisan legislation to meet the needs of the American people,” she added. According to Pelosi, the CARES 2 package would (1) go further in assisting small businesses (including farmers), (2) extend and strengthen unemployment benefits, and (3) distribute additional direct payments.
“Our communities cannot afford to wait, and we must move quickly,” Pelosi wrote. “It is my hope that we will craft this legislation and bring it to the Floor later this month.”
Paycheck Protection Program
Meanwhile, the Trump administration is seeking an increase in funding for the CARES Act’s Paycheck Protection Program. Accordingly, several bipartisan lawmakers have called for congressional action to provide the necessary funding needed for small businesses. The administration is reportedly asking for an additional $250 billion for the largely overrun loan program.
“Through this tax break, workers can get back on payrolls and stay there. By working with their bank, small businesses can get eight weeks of cash-flow assistance through 100 percent federally guaranteed loans,” House Ways and Means ranking member Kevin Brady, R-Tex., said on April 7. “If the business [including churches] uses the money to maintain payroll, the portion of the loans used for covered payroll costs, interest on mortgage obligations, rent, and utilities would be forgiven.”
Likewise, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., called for swift action on the matter. “Congress needs to act with speed and total focus to provide more money for this uncontroversial bipartisan program,” McConnell said on April 7. “I will work with [Treasury] Secretary Steven Mnuchin and [Senate Minority Leader Chuck] Schumer and hope to approve further funding for the Paycheck Protection Program by unanimous consent or voice vote during the next scheduled Senate session on Thursday.”