Pennsylvania's two U.S. Senators, Pat Toomey, a Republican, and Bob Casey, a Democrat, held phone conference calls Wednesday, describing some of the highlights of the $2 trillion Phase 3 Coronavirus aid bill.
Toomey said the bill is organized under three themes: Helping people who are unable to go to work, the war on the virus and helping people be employed.
"In Pennsylvania, our economy is closed, but for essential businesses and a number of other exceptions, it is not permissible to open your doors and it is not permissible to go to work," he said. "This has never before happened in American history. I'm not here to criticize that decision; it might very well be the right decision. But it has devastating economic consequences."
The increases unemployment insurance benefits. About $600 per person of new federal money that will prop up the money that is given by the state. Many workers will be able to receive close to or all of the income they have lost by not being able to go to work.
"We recognized that the unemployment system was going to take a while to catch up with this change in the law," Toomey said. "But people have bills to pay and no money coming in. So we are sending out direct checks to anybody who had earned income last year up to $75,000 per individual, $150,000 per married couple. For the vast majority of people, it will be $1,200 per person, $2,400 for a married couple plus $500 for every dependent child. A married couple with two kids is going to get a check for $3,400 in a matter of a couple of weeks.
"I am hopeful that thanks to the increase in unemployment benefits and the direct check, people will be able to get through this very difficult time," Toomey said.
Casey said Democrats fought to craft a relief bill that helps workers and families, not just special interests.
"We held firm in our insistence that the health and security of Americans must take precedence over corporate bailouts," Casey said. "The bill that the Senate is now considering provides significant funding to combat this public health emergency, including a $150 billion Marshall Plan for hospitals, nursing homes and community health centers, providing them with the resources they desperately need."
The bill includes more than $377 billion in immediate relief for small businesses and additional resources for medium-sized businesses, Casey said.
"This legislation must be the beginning of Congress’ efforts to address this public health crisis and stabilize our economy, not the end," he said. "I will continue to press for additional action and push the administration to get money out the door quickly and ensure that Americans receive the immediate relief they need.”
Toomey said the funding will make sure "make sure there is an employer still there for people to go back to work when it is possible to go back to work."
Toomey said $100 billion will go to hospitals and other health care providers, a big part of which will be used to scale up testing.
"We have to kill this virus," he said. "And figure out how to help people survive this virus. A big part of this is making sure our hospitals are ready to treat people."
Meanwhile, U.S. House Rep. Fred Keller, R-12, Kreamer, said Wednesday afternoon that "Our office is reviewing the details of the Senate package as they become available. As I have said from the beginning, I will be looking for any Phase 3 plan to provide immediate and significant relief for small businesses and employees directly impacted by COVID-19. I will also be looking to make sure that any relief is limited to dealing with the pandemic and does not contain any ill-advised long-term policy changes."