U-S Senate Passes $2.2 Trillion COVID-19 Relief Bill
WASHINGTON (AP) – The Senate passed an unparalleled $2.2 trillion economic rescue package steering aid to businesses, workers and health care systems engulfed by the coronavirus pandemic.
The unanimous vote Wednesday came despite misgivings on both sides about whether it goes too far, or not far enough, and capped days of difficult negotiations as Washington confronted a national challenge unlike it has ever faced.
The 880-page measure is the largest economic relief bill in U.S.
The package is intended as relief for an economy spiraling into
recession or worse and a nation facing a grim toll from an infection that’s killed more than 21,000 people worldwide.
The sprawling measure is the third coronavirus response bill produced by Congress and by far the largest. It builds on efforts focused on vaccines and emergency response, sick and family medical leave for workers and food aid.
Senate passage delivered the legislation to the Democratic-controlled House, which is expected to pass it Friday. House members are scattered around the country. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said the measure would pass by voice vote without lawmakers having to return to Washington.
The package would give direct payments to most Americans, expand unemployment benefits and provide a $367 billion program for small businesses to keep making payroll while workers are forced to stay home.
It includes a heavily negotiated $500 billion program for guaranteed, subsidized loans to larger industries, including airlines. Hospitals would get significant help as well.
The bill would provide one-time direct payments to Americans of $1,200 per adult making up to $75,000 a year and $2,400 to a married couple making up to $150,000, with $500 payments per child.
A huge cash infusion for hospitals expecting a flood of COVID-19
patients grew during the talks to an estimated $130 billion. Another $45 billion would fund additional relief through the Federal Emergency Management Agency for local response efforts and community services.
The package also contains $15.5 billion more for a surge in demand for food stamps as part of a massive $330 billion title for agency operations.
State and local authorities would receive up to $150 billion in grants to fight the virus, care for their residents and provide basic services.
Republicans won inclusion of an employee retention tax credit that’s estimated to provide $50 billion to companies that retain employees on payroll and cover 50% of workers’ paycheck up to $10,000. Companies would also be able to defer payment of the 6.2% Social Security payroll tax.
A companion appropriations package ballooned as well, growing from a $46 billion White House proposal to $330 billion, which dwarfs earlier disasters – including Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy combined.
Iowa’s Homeland Security Director Asks For More Ventilators
(Des Moines) — State officials say there are 280 ventilators available for use in the state right now. Critically ill COVID-19 patients will experience respiratory failure and need ventilators to breathe. Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management director Joyce Flinn says the state hopes to get more ventilators.
State officials are encouraging hospitals to use plans from the Centers for Disease Control and convert anesthesia machines into ventilators. Early last week, government officials indicated the number of ventilators in the state was confidential information because they’re part of emergency plans. On
Wednesday, officials released those numbers, along with an estimate that there are enough doctors, nurses and other caregivers employed today to hospitalize nine-thousand people. Flinn says data on the amount of face masks, gloves and other personal protective equipment currently available in Iowa is a constantly changing number.
Purchases are being made by the state as well as individual hospitals around the state, according to Flinn. Iowa National Guard soldiers delivered protective equipment for medical staff to more than 20 county distribution sites around the state on Wednesday.
County Supervisors Discuss Coronavirus
(Le Mars) — During Tuesday’s Plymouth County Board of Supervisor meeting, the county governing board discussed the wide spread coronavirus, and it affects on county government and its employees. Craig Anderson serves as the vice chairman of the County Board of Supervisors. He says the board approved
a disaster declaration which was a follow-up from the previous week from a letter signed by chairman Don Kass.
Currently, the county courthouse is closed to the public, but Anderson says some of the employees are still staffing the offices, while others are conducting county business work from home. The Recorder’s Office, Treasurer’s Office and the Auditor’s Office are encouraging people to either conduct business on-line, by telephone, or to use the drop box located at the courthouse.
Anderson says the county is making preparations in case additional employees will need to conduct business from their home.
Employees needing time off, either because they have been infected with the virus, or have been quarantined due to coming in close contact with someone that has the coronavirus was also a topic of discussion during the weekly county supervisor meeting.
Anderson says the action taken by the county governing board was actually a federal mandate, as well as a request by Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds.
The County Supervisor shares what was decided by the county governing board with regards to county employees needing time off due to the virus.
Because of the virus, the county supervisors held their meeting at the basement of the Courthouse Annex building.
Sioux City Homeless Shelter Shuts Down Due To Virus
(Sioux City) — Sioux City’s homeless shelter has closed one month earlier than normal. Warming Shelter director Lindsay Landrum says board members made the difficult decision to close the shelter doors Wednesday for the season.
Landrum says their were concerns about the health
of those staying at the shelter, as well as her staff. Around 30 people were standing on the streets around the shelter after they were told the building was closing — including this man.
Landrum says some of the people staying there have been ill, but anyone coming in to stay was screened.
Landrum says she’s working with the city to find some housing and hotel vouchers for the homeless population. The shelter will continue to take donations for next season and also for the renovation of the building to expand their services.
Hospital Leaders Say State-wide Lockdown Isn’t Needed
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – As the coronavirus becomes more prevalent in Iowa, the leaders of two large hospitals in the county with the most infections say they’re not pushing for a shelter-in-place order as adopted by neighboring states. Brooks Jackson, dean of the University of Iowa’s medical college, says it would be “very disruptive” economically. Sean Williams, the CEO of Mercy Hospital in Iowa City, says it would create unintended consequences hampering the hospitals’ ability to provide care. Both are in Johnson County, where most of Iowa’s cases are located. Officials said Wednesday that the number of Iowans who tested positive increased by 21 to 145.
Police Investigate Shooting In Marshalltown
MARSHALLTOWN, Iowa (AP) – Police say one man died and another was wounded in a Marshalltown shooting. Officers and medics sent to a residence around 9:20 p.m. Wednesday found two men ages 22 and 27 suffering from gunshot wounds. Police say the 22-year-old died at the scene and the 27-year-old was
taken to a hospital. Their names haven’t been released. State detectives have been called in to help with the investigation. No arrests have been reported.
Attorney General Says Puppy Mill Has Dissolved
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – The Iowa Attorney General’s Office says those who operated an alleged national puppy-laundering ring masquerading as pet rescues have agreed to dissolve and pay the state $60,000 as part of a settlement. Attorney General Tom Miller last year sued two nonprofit rescue groups — Hobo K9 Rescue of Britt and Rescue Pets Iowa Corp. of Ottumwa —
and others. The lawsuit accused them of working together to illegally transfer thousands of designer puppies through the sham rescue groups to out-of-state pet stores from September 2016 to September 2019. The defendants denied the allegations but agreed to the consent judgment.