House Passes Coronavirus Legislation After Trump Signals Support

The Bill Includes Free COVID-19 Testing and Paid Sick Leave
March 14, 2020 Updated: March 14, 2020
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The House of Representatives passed a coronavirus emergency stimulus package in a bipartisan vote early Saturday.

The House passed the bill 363-40 and it now heads to the Senate, which could vote on it as early as Monday.

If it passes, the bill (pdf) will provide financial assistance to those impacted by the crisis, including two weeks of sick pay for workers. Employees will also be able to take up to three months of unpaid leave if they are quarantined or need to care for sick family members. Meanwhile, businesses will get a tax credit to help cover the expense.

The legislation also authorizes free COVID-19 testing for those who need a test, including uninsured people.

The bill also includes enhanced unemployment benefits, improved food security initiatives, and federal Medicaid funding to states.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) late Friday said in a letter to Democrat colleagues that a bipartisan agreement had been reached between House Democrats and the Trump administration.

“This legislation is about testing, testing, testing,” she wrote. “To stop the spread of the virus, we have secured free coronavirus testing for everyone who needs a test, including the uninsured. We cannot fight coronavirus effectively unless everyone in our country who needs to be tested can get their test free of charge.”

President Donald Trump later on Friday announced his support for the legislation, writing on Twitter that he fully supported the bill, and encouraged bipartisan support.

“This Bill will follow my direction for free CoronaVirus tests, and paid sick leave for our impacted American workers. I have directed the Secretary of the Treasury and the Secretary of Labor to issue regulations that will provide flexibility so that in no way will Small Businesses be hurt … I will always put the health and well-being of American families FIRST. Look forward to signing the final Bill ASAP!”

Pelosi said the House would begin work next week on a third emergency response package “to protect the health, economic security, and well-being of the American people.” House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said Trump’s proposed payroll tax cut could factor in those negotiations.

Epoch Times Photo
President Donald Trump, flanked by officials and business leaders, announces a national emergency with regard to the coronavirus in the White House Rose Garden in Washington on March 13, 2020. (Charlotte Cuthbertson/The Epoch Times)

Earlier on Friday, the president declared a national emergency over the coronavirus pandemic, which means that up to $50 billion in disaster relief funds can be provided to state and local governments to respond to the viral outbreak.

“We will overcome the threat of the virus,” Trump said.

Last week, Congress passed an $8.3 billion emergency coronavirus spending package (pdf) that Trump signed into law on March 6. The legislation enables funding to develop a vaccine for COVID-19 and other prevention measures.

There are currently over 2,570 confirmed cases of the virus across the country and 51 deaths as of Saturday, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, 12 people have recovered from the virus across the country.

The virus has triggered temporary school closures in several cities and states across the nation.

The Los Angeles United School District, the country’s second-largest with 750,000 students, will close all schools for two weeks beginning Monday while it evaluates what to do next.

San Francisco, San Diego, Miami, Chicago, and Washington were among the other big cities telling students on Friday to stay away from class for two or three weeks.

In Illinois, Governor Jay Pritzker said all public schools in the state, including those in Chicago, would close beginning Tuesday through March 29. A handful of states, including Ohio and Michigan, have announced similar shutdowns.

Janita Kan and Reuters contributed to this report.

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