Trump Signs 2nd COVID-19 Relief Bill Into Law

By Stephen Cooper
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Law360 (March 18, 2020, 4:13 PM EDT) -- President Donald Trump signed legislation Wednesday evening to provide paid sick leave to American workers affected by the new coronavirus, taking a second major step this month to bolster the U.S. economy from falling into a recession.

Congressional passage of a bill to provide paid sick leave to workers affected by COVID-19 came after the Senate blocked an amendment requiring recipients of child tax credits to provide their Social Security numbers to receive funds. (AP)

Trump signed into law the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, or H.R. 6201, which the Senate passed earlier in the day by a vote of 90 to 8. Earlier this month, Trump also signed an $8.3 billion measure designed to help federal and state health care agencies respond to the virus.

The bill signing comes as Trump administration officials flesh out plans to provide a $1 trillion economic stimulus package that includes small-business loans and direct payments to American families.

Senate passage of H.R. 6201 was expected despite Republican resistance to the bill, which passed the House Monday after lawmakers narrowed the sick and family leave provisions to make them less burdensome for small businesses. The final version of the bipartisan legislation would provide tax credits for employers when workers receive paid sick leave because of illness from COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said House Democrats and Trump administration officials fashioned the "well-intentioned" measure to provide relief for American workers.

McConnell said he plans to keep the Senate in Washington until lawmakers agree on a third bill bolstering the U.S. economy, which is slowing as many businesses are required to close and citizens stay home from work to combat the virus.

In a statement following Senate passage, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said the bipartisan legislation will protect "the health, economic security and well-being of the American people while stimulating the economy."

The legislation would provide all employees with two weeks of paid emergency sick leave, 90 days of family and medical leave for eligible workers and enhanced unemployment insurance for workers who lose their jobs because of the outbreak.

The measure would also combat food insecurity by strengthening SNAP, student and senior meals, and food banks. The bill would also boost funding for Medicaid health insurance for state, tribal and local governments.

During the Senate floor debate on the bill, lawmakers blocked an unrelated amendment by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., that would have required recipients of child tax credits to provide their Social Security numbers to receive funds. They also blocked an amendment by Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., to expand the paid medical leave benefits, and a competing one from Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., that would have replaced the paid leave with state unemployment benefits.

Those provisions could get another chance for consideration as Senate and House lawmakers work on a third bill to prop up the U.S. economy, including larger tax relief proposals and new federal spending to help families and faltering industries.

Three separate groups of Senate Republicans are working on proposals to help small businesses survive, provide income support for individuals and help medical professionals respond to the COVID-19 outbreak, McConnell said.

Details of the upcoming legislation are facing considerable scrutiny by lawmakers and public, even as Trump administration officials seek to build support for a plan to help boost the economy.

A U.S. Department of the Treasury memo circulating Wednesday on Capitol Hill sketched out the administration's plan for a $1 trillion stimulus and relief package with $300 billion for small-business loans, $200 billion for loans to airlines and other industries, and $500 billion for direct payments to consumers.

"This is unprecedented. We're closing down the economy to combat the disease," said Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn. "And because we're doing that, governments at all levels are going to have to foot the bill."

--Editing by John Oudens.

Update: This story has been updated with President Trump signing the legislation.

For a reprint of this article, please contact reprints@law360.com.

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