House Speaker Nancy Pelosi unveiled a more than $3 trillion coronavirus aid package Tuesday, a sweeping effort with $1 trillion for states and cities, “hazard pay” for essential workers and a new round of cash payments to individuals.
The House is expected to vote on the package as soon as Friday. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said there is no “urgency.” The Senate will wait until after Memorial Day to consider options.
“We must think big, for the people, now,” Pelosi said from the speaker’s office at the Capitol.
“Not acting is the most expensive course,” she said.
Lines drawn, the latest pandemic response from Congress will test the House and Senate — and U.S. President Donald Trump — as Washington navigates the extraordinary crisis with the nation’s health and economic security at stake.
The Democrats’ Heroes Act is built around nearly $1 trillion for states, cities and tribal governments to avert layoffs, focused chiefly on $375 billion for smaller suburban and rural municipalities largely left out of earlier bills.
The bill will offer a fresh round of $1,200 direct cash aid to individuals, increased to up to $6,000 per household, and launches a $175 billion housing assistance fund to help pay rents and mortgages. There is $75 billion more for virus testing.
It would continue, through January, the $600-per-week boost to unemployment benefits. It adds a 15% increase for food stamps, new subsidies for laid-off workers to pay health insurance premiums under a COBRA law and a special “Obamacare” sign-up period. For businesses, it provides an employee retention tax credit.
There’s $200 billion in “hazard pay” for essential workers on the front lines of the crisis.
Pelosi drew on U.S. history — and poetry — to suggest “no man is an island” as she called on Americans to respond to the crisis with a strategy of science, virus testing and empathy.
[ Sign up for our Health IQ newsletter for the latest coronavirus updates ]
“There are those who said, ‘Let’s just pause,’” she said. “Hunger doesn’t take a pause. Rent doesn’t take a pause. Bills don’t take a pause.”