By: David M. Higgins II, Publisher/Staff Writer

Washington, D.C.- Late Wednesday night, President Trump signed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, the second phase of relief the Administration is looking to provide Americans following the outbreak of Novel Coronavirus/COVID-19.

“The Act makes emergency supplemental appropriations and other changes to the law to help the Nation respond to the coronavirus outbreak,” the White House said in a release. 

The second phase bill, now enacted provides for free COVID-19 testing, and paid emergency leave.

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act builds on an $8.3 billion emergency coronavirus spending package enacted into law on March 6.

“Our top priority in this public health emergency must be providing support to the American people,” said House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita M. Lowey (D-NY). “The Families First Coronavirus Response Act will help ensure the physical safety and financial security of our nation’s working families during this time of crisis. With this bill, we can provide paid leave, guarantee free testing, and enhance important benefits for children and families.”

The signed Families First…Act adds:

  • for families’ health security: ensuring free coronavirus testing for everyone who needs a test, including the uninsured.  Our legislation also increases funding for Medicaid to support local, state, tribal and territorial health systems, so that they have the resources needed to combat this public health emergency.
  • for families’ economic security: providing two weeks of paid sick leave and up to three months of family and medical leave for eligible workers and enhancing Unemployment Insurance.  It also supports small businesses by fully reimbursing them for providing leave. 
  • for families’ food security: strengthening nutrition initiatives including SNAP, student meals, seniors’ meals, and food banks.

“The House and Senate are already hard at work on the third bill in the House’s Families First agenda, which will take bold, historic action on behalf of America’s workers and families.  This bill will be crafted in consultation with the public health, labor, non-profit and business communities so that we can deliver the most effective, evidence-based response”, says Speaker of the House Nacy Pelosi(D-CA).

The bill sent to the Senate that was passed yesterday afternoon contained some changes in order to help pass it quicker.

The revised legislation would still provide many workers with up to two weeks of paid sick leave if they are being tested or treated for coronavirus or have been diagnosed with it. Also eligible would be those who have been told by a doctor or government official to stay home because of exposure or symptoms.

Under the revised bill, however, those payments would be capped at $511 a day, roughly what someone making $133,000 earns annually. The original measure called for workers to receive their full pay but limited federal reimbursement to employers to that amount.

Phase Three of the Coronavirus Response Acts focuses on those that lost their jobs or lessened work hours due to shutdowns. The acts look to supply American Workers with Stimulus checks much like Presidents Bush and Obama did in 2008 and 2009.

Here’s what we know – and don’t. Keep in mind that all details stem from a proposal and are subject to change. We will update, as needed.

The Treasury Department seeks to make Direct Payments of up to $1000 to Americans starting April 6, 2020. This would come from two $250 billion rounds to individual taxpayers.

A Democratic proposal from Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) and Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) would give at least $1,000 to everyone making less than $65,000. They say that about 75 percent of Americans would qualify.

And a Democratic plan from Sens. Michael F. Bennet of Colorado, Cory Booker of New Jersey and Sherrod Brown of Ohio would go even further. It provides $2,000 for every American adult and child plus a $1,500 check in the summer and a $1,000 check in the fall if the public health emergency continues.

Both plans stop payments for earners over cap earnings at under $65,000 and $100,000 respectively. Republican and Democrat proposals say no millionaires will be receiving money.

Details on the income brackets and qualifications are yet to be determined.

The checks are planned to be distributed on Aril 6 and May 18. However, this is likely to change during the appropriations process. When President Bush signed the Economic Stimulus Act of 2008 on Feb. 13, 2008, the checks did not go out until late April.

Where is the money coming from? The short answer is Taxes.

The “phase three” proposal would include $50 billion to aid the hard-hit airline industry, $150 billion for other distressed sectors of the economy,

Payments on student loan interest are also on hold, as the president said last week during his declaration of a national emergency. “I’ve waived interest on all student loans held by federal government agencies, and that will be until further notice,” Trump said.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday that senators will remain in Washington until they approve a phase three deal. “We’re not leaving town until we have constructed and passed another bill,” he said.

David M. Higgins II is an award-winning journalist passionate about uncovering the truth and telling compelling stories. Born in Baltimore and raised in Southern Maryland, he has lived in several East...