The U.S. Senate today (3/18) passed the federal coronavirus aid package approved earlier this week by the U.S. House of Representatives. The measure now goes to President Trump, who is expected to sign it. Senators voted 90-8 on the bill (H.R. 6201, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act) that had previously passed the House.
The Joint Committee on Taxation estimates the measure will cost about $104 billion. It is the second emergency supplemental appropriations package that Congress has passed amid growing concerns about the outbreak and the impact it is having on the U.S. economy. Today’s vote on the second package comes as senators are already working on a third supplemental appropriations package in response to the coronavirus pandemic that they hope to pass next week.
H.R. 6201 includes provisions addressing emergency food assistance including waiver and funding authority for school meal programs, free coronavirus testing, expanded Family and Medical protected leave and paid leave including tax credits for some employers, extended unemployment insurance, and increased Medicaid reimbursement for states.
According to the National School Boards Association (NSBA), the legislation contains several provisions of interest to education leaders including:
From the NSBA:
- Emergency paid sick leave program, including for individuals unable to work because they are caring for a child who is home because of a virus-related school closing.
- Expansion of federal food assistance for families affected by a virus-related school closure of five or more days. The bill permits states to provide emergency food stamp assistance to families where a child would otherwise have been eligible to receive a free or reduced-price school meal.
- Expansion of school meals. Provides USDA new power to grant state waivers for federally subsidized school meals in the event of a school closure, including waivers to states that want to distribute food in different settings outside a school and allow flexibility on meal components.
The third supplemental appropriations bill is expected to address further effects of the virus, including the impact on American businesses.