Senate Passes $2 Trillion Coronavirus Economic Relief Bill

United States Senate Podium

[Update: The U.S. House of Representatives passed the bill on March 27.]

The U.S. Senate approved the third coronavirus relief bill, which aims to help stabilize the economy and provide funds for distressed small businesses and laid-off workers.

The Senate passed the bill in a 96 to 0 vote on March 25. The U.S. House of Representatives will now consider the measure, which is the largest economic rescue package in U.S. history, according to Politico.

"Every day, more Americans' jobs are disappearing or coming closer to the brink," said Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. "Every day, more small businesses are faced with hard decisions that could change local communities forever." He said the bill would "inject a significant amount of money as quickly as possible into households, small businesses, key sectors, and our nation's hospitals and health centers."

President Donald Trump had urged lawmakers to pass the proposal. "Congratulations AMERICA!" he said on Twitter after the Senate vote.

The bill sets four main objectives:

  • Provide emergency cash to individuals and their families.
  • Deliver fast and significant relief to small businesses.
  • Help stabilize the economy and curb layoffs.
  • Rush resources to frontline health care workers.

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., had criticized the initial bill for including "huge bailouts without protections for people and workers and without accountability." 

"We fought to make this bill better," he said on Twitter after several days of heated negotiations. "We fought to ensure Americans who lost jobs will be able to pay rent, mortgages, [and for] food because of the greatest expansion of unemployment insurance in decades."

Notably, gig workers would be able to receive temporary unemployment benefits under the bill, reported Bloomberg Law

We've rounded up articles and resources from SHRM Online and other trusted media outlets on the news.

SHRM Resource Spotlight
Coronavirus and COVID-19

Direct Pay, Business Loans and Unemployment Benefits

Under the Senate proposal, the federal government would directly pay most U.S. adults $1,200 and most children $500. It would also create a $500 billion lending program for companies and municipalities and offer more than $360 billion to help small businesses with their payroll. Updates to the legislation provide that the loans cannot be paid to businesses owned by the president, other White House officials and Congress members.

The bill would also enhance unemployment benefits by expanding eligibility and offering recipients an additional $600 a week—beyond what state unemployment programs pay—for four months. Several Republican Senators held up the vote Wednesday evening when they raised concerns that the additional unemployment benefits might encourage people to leave the workforce. Their proposed amendment, however, was defeated.

(The Washington Post)

House Democrats Reveal $2.5 Trillion Relief Bill

While the Senate negotiations continued, U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., introduced a 1,400-page House bill, which would require lenders to pause collection of mortgage, auto and credit card payments. Among other relief, the bill would give public housing residents a break from paying rent and student loan borrowers $10,000 in debt forgiveness. The measure would also halt negative consumer credit reporting, foreclosures and evictions. 

Trump criticized Democrats for "asking for things that have nothing to do with our great workers or companies." The bill has provisions on federal elections, minimum wage, union regulations and climate change. House members, however, have not made plans to return to Washington to vote on their bill, and Republican lawmakers have called the proposal a wish list.


House to Review Senate Bill

On Wednesday, Pelosi said that House Democrats will review the Senate bill. "This bipartisan legislation takes us a long way down the road in meeting the needs of the American people," she said. "While the compromise does not go as far as our Take Responsibility for Workers and Families Act, thanks to the unity and insistence of Senate and House Democrats, the bill has moved a great deal closer to America's workers."

She initially wanted to use a voting method that would allow lawmakers to stay remote rather than travel back to Washington, D.C. However, she later noted that House members were considering other options. "What I would like to see, because this is a $2 trillion bill, I'd like to see a good debate on the floor," Pelosi said. "Overwhelmingly our members want to come back."


Paid Leave Mandated in Prior Coronavirus Relief Bill

On March 18, Trump signed into law the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R. 6201), which will provide paid emergency family leave in limited circumstances, as well as paid sick leave for people affected by COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus. In general, the emergency paid-leave provisions in the legislation apply to businesses with fewer than 500 employees, but there may be some exceptions available for small businesses and companies that employ health care workers. These provisions take effect April 1 and expire on Dec. 31. The U.S. Department of Labor announced a nonenforcement period for employers that make good-faith compliance efforts. The department will focus on compliance assistance during that time and enforcement measures will begin April 18. 

(SHRM Online)

First Relief Bill Provided $8.3 Billion in Emergency Funds

Another emergency spending package to fight COVID-19 was signed into law on March 6. The measure will provide funds to develop a vaccine, provide protective and laboratory equipment to workers who need it, and aid locations hit with the virus.

(SHRM Online)

Governments, Large Organizations Offer Help to Small Businesses

The coronavirus is having a devastating effect on small businesses, their owners and employees around the world. Large organizations and cities, counties and states around the U.S. are stepping forward to offer a variety of relief. SHRM Online has collected news stories about aid that is available for small business owners and nonprofits and steps those businesses can take to protect their organizations and employees during the global pandemic.

(SHRM Online)

Visit SHRM's resource page on coronavirus and COVID-19.


 Provide input as the Department of Labor develops guidance on the Families First Coronavirus Response Act online at through March 29.



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Asking Vaccination Status

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The Department of Health & Human Services has clarified the HIPAA Privacy Rule does not prohibit an employer from requesting an employee’s vaccination status as part of the terms and conditions of employment.



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