WASHINGTON – The House of Representatives voted Thursday to approve a roughly $480 billion package to deliver aid to small businesses and hospitals and expand Covid-19 testing, the latest attempt by lawmakers to blunt the devastating impact of the pandemic.
The vote was 388-5. The measure passed the Senate earlier this week and will now go to President Donald Trump, who has expressed support for the legislation and indicated that he will sign it.
The total price tag of the bill is approximately $484 billion. It will add to the already historic levels of spending to deal with the pandemic by authorizing an additional $310 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program, which was set up to help small businesses struggling from the economic deep freeze triggered by coronavirus. Funding for the program ran dry earlier this month, prompting an outcry from the business community.
In addition, the legislation provides $75 billion for hospitals and health care providers to address coronavirus expenses and lost revenue and $25 billion to facilitate and expand Covid-19 testing. The increased funding for testing comes at a time when there is widespread recognition that testing capacity must increase and improve as states consider when to reopen businesses and lift stay-at-home orders.
The legislation, though referred to as an “interim” measure by lawmakers, amounts to the latest historic effort by Washington to prop up the economy on the heels of a more than $2 trillion rescue package along with other relief measures already approved by Congress.