The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

What exactly is in this massive $2 trillion Senate coronavirus bill?

The Post's Jeff Stein explained March 18 why the White House and Congress are moving swiftly on economic stimulus amid the coronavirus outbreak. (Video: The Washington Post)

The Senate just passed the largest stimulus bill in American history. The House could vote by Friday and send it to President Trump’s desk.

Congressional leaders want this signed into law ASAP. Lawmakers all seem to agree that because government shut down local economies and recommended people stay in their homes, it’s government’s job to help people and businesses survive financially. That’s why even conservative Republicans are embracing social welfare, safety-net programs and this tremendously expensive package.

The $2 trillion bill touches every part of the economy. The Post’s Jeff Stein has a detailed explanation of each aspect. But we’ll provide a general, quick overview. Overall, there are five categories of beneficiaries of the bill: taxpayers, small businesses, corporations, hospitals, and states and localities. Let’s start with how this bill aims to help you, the taxpayer, during the coronavirus pandemic.


Anyone who files a 2018 or 2019 return and earns $75,000 or less will receive a one-time $1,200 check, or $2,400 for couples filing jointly. In addition, those households will receive $500 per child. The check amount will go down until it phases out completely for people earning $99,000, or $198,000 for joint taxpayers. The Tax Foundation estimates this will cost $301 billion. (People who don’t file taxes because they receive Social Security also qualify.)

Calculate how much you'll get from the coronavirus stimulus check

The bill also includes specific proposals for people who have lost their jobs or are experiencing financial hardship.

Most people who lost their jobs can already file for state unemployment insurance, and millions have tried to do that already, overwhelming state systems. This Senate bill will give an extra $600 per month for up to four months to people already receiving their states’ unemployment insurance. It also for the first time covers gig workers, such as Uber and Lyft drivers who lose their jobs, something Uber and Airbnb executives lobbied Congress for. And it temporarily expands unemployment insurance to people who would like to work but can’t because they are sick or are caring for a family member who is, including people who are self-employed or who don’t have an extensive work history. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) has called this “unemployment insurance on steroids.”

A handful of Republican senators oppose these unemployment benefits, which don’t cap out at a certain income, because they worried it could disincentivize people who make less than the benefit would provide to go back to work. But they lost that debate. The Senate passed the bill 96-0, with the only four senators not voting quarantined due to coronavirus.

It also includes a big increase in the food stamp program. And a big increase in a farmer bailout program.

People who need extra cash as a result of the economic impact of the virus will be allowed to withdraw from their retirement accounts without getting hit by a 10 percent fee.

Students with federal loans can suspend payments until Sept. 30, interest-free. Students who have to drop out of school because of the virus also don’t have to pay loans for that time.

Small businesses

This was the easy part of the legislation. A bipartisan proposal to give shuttered small businesses loans was largely uncontroversial. The Senate measure includes a $367 billion loan program for small businesses. Small businesses will be able to take out loans of up to $10 million, and employers could use the money to pay employees making up to $100,000 a year.


This biggest chunk of spending in this historic bill is reserved for companies and industries: $500 billion.

Some $50 billion of that is specifically for airlines, which claim they are harder hit financially than in the weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. And there’s controversial carve-out specifically for Boeing, which is still under fire for its deadly jet crashes, to get $17 billion in federal aid, The Washington Post reports.

Companies that had to lay off employees and that hire them back when this is all over can qualify for loan forgiveness.

But companies in which President Trump, White House officials or members of Congress own a majority stake can’t receive any loans. That means Trump’s hotels — which he has acknowledged are hurting in this crisis and which The Post has reported are probably losing millions — can’t apply for financial assistance.

Democrats negotiated to get more oversight and more transparency for this category. The original Senate GOP bill would have allowed the Treasury Department to hand out loans without scrutiny and without reporting where the money went for six months. Now, loans will be publicized within two weeks. There will be an oversight board and an inspector general watchdog within the Treasury Department to keep an eye on where this money is going.

Companies can’t buy back stocks (to make their bottom lines look good to investors) for as long as they are receiving assistance, and a year afterward. But Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin can waive that rule for companies if he tells Congress about it first.


The bill includes about $180 billion to help hospitals do, well, everything: acquire personal protective equipment (states in the hardest-hit areas are competing with one another to get ventilators, in the absence of help from the federal government); find ways to allow doctors to talk to patients remotely; and encourage creating drugs to treat the virus. It will also include money to help health-care workers learn best practices for treating elderly patients, who are particularly vulnerable to the virus.

And it puts into legislation requirements that the Trump administration keep track of its stockpiles of lifesaving equipment such as ventilators and protective equipment for health-care workers.

States and localities

They can apply for loans from the corporate pool. But there’s also a separate $150 billion stimulus for communities. Health experts say state and county health departments are on the front lines of fighting the virus. Local health officials have had their budgets largely slashed over the past few years but now could be key to tracing the contacts of infected people so they can be quarantined as well. That’s how many areas in Asia effectively limited the spread of the virus.

The bill also includes $400 million to help states protect voters from the virus. A growing number of election officials say the answer is mail-in ballots, but setting up the system will be time-consuming and expensive. Only five states are set up for statewide mail-only elections. This funding is far less than what was requested by states that want to set up mail voting, reports The Post’s Amy Gardner. According to Gardner, Democrats wanted this bill to mandate that states have mail-in ballots in a national emergency.

Coronavirus: What you need to know

Vaccines: The CDC recommends that everyone age 5 and older get an updated covid booster shot. New federal data shows adults who received the updated shots cut their risk of being hospitalized with covid-19 by 50 percent. Here’s guidance on when you should get the omicron booster and how vaccine efficacy could be affected by your prior infections.

New covid variant: The XBB.1.5 variant is a highly transmissible descendant of omicron that is now estimated to cause about half of new infections in the country. We answered some frequently asked questions about the bivalent booster shots.

Guidance: CDC guidelines have been confusing — if you get covid, here’s how to tell when you’re no longer contagious. We’ve also created a guide to help you decide when to keep wearing face coverings.

Where do things stand? See the latest coronavirus numbers in the U.S. and across the world. In the U.S., pandemic trends have shifted and now White people are more likely to die from covid than Black people. Nearly nine out of 10 covid deaths are people over the age 65.

For the latest news, sign up for our free newsletter.