Update March 25, 11:56 p.m.: The Senate passed the historic stimulus bill, and it now moves to the House of Representatives for a vote.

On Wednesday, the White House and leaders of both parties announced $2 trillion in emergency funding to help businesses, individuals, and hospitals weather the crisis caused by the coronavirus. The package is larger than the 2008 bank bailout and the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act combined, according to the Associated Press. The Senate is expected to approve the bill on Wednesday. It may be more complicated to get approval from the House of Representatives, whose members are scattered around the country.

The package includes a $367 billion program for small businesses to help them continue to make payroll. It would expand unemployment benefits and also make direct payments to most Americans, the AP reports.

"We will see an enormous deluge of people who desperately need this help," says Tom  Koulopoulos, founder of Delphi Group, a Boston-based technology think tank and former Inc. 5000 honoree. He says that when the state of Massachusetts made a $10 million emergency loan fund available to small businesses on March 16, it was exhausted within 24 hours.

Under the agreement, businesses that retain employees and cover 50 percent of their paychecks would be eligible for a tax credit. Companies also would be able to defer payment of the 6.2 percent Social Security payroll tax.

Furloughed workers would get their normal unemployment benefits, and the amount of time they could claim those benefits would be extended by 13 weeks, according to The New York Times. For four months, they'd get an additional $600 a week. Gig workers such as Uber drivers would be covered for the first time.

"The normal calculus is that if I lay these people off, they can't pay their mortgage," says David Barron, an employment attorney at Houston law firm Cozen O'Connor and the head of the firm's coronavirus task force. "That may no longer apply. Then it becomes a question of health insurance." Barron adds, however, that many health insurance providers may allow furloughed workers to stay on their plans.

Individuals with incomes of up to $75,000 a year would receive direct payments of $1,200. Those payments would phase out and end for those making $99,000 a year. Married couples would get $2,400, up to a combined income of $150,000. Families would get an additional $500 per child.

The bill would set aside $130 billion for hospitals, and $150 billion for state and local governments. It also creates a pool of $500 billion for distressed companies, to be overseen by an inspector general and a five-person panel created by Congress. 

This article includes additional reporting by the Associated Press.

Published on: Mar 25, 2020