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April 28, 2020 12:18pm

Next steps from Congress on COVID-19

What can we expect next from Congress as the country continues grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic?

Congress so far has already passed four major legislative packages in response to the crisis.

  • March 4: Congress passed an $8 billion emergency spending package focused on coronavirus prevention, preparation, and response efforts.
  • March 19: Congress passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which focused on paid leave, sick leave, testing, and unemployment benefits.
  • March 27: Congress passed the CARES Act, an unprecedented $2 trillion bill that, among other things, created major new loan programs for small businesses, provided businesses with tax relief, issued cash-payments to individuals, funds for state and local governments, and more
  • April 24: Congress passed the CARES Act 2.0, which authorized more funds for small business loan and grant programs and allocated funds for health care systems.

Each of these bills could be considered historic on their own, but at least one more major piece of federal legislation is expected in the coming weeks. When it will happen and what it will include are the two major questions.

GLI will continually update this page as more information becomes known about the next congressional response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

What will be in the next COVID-19 bill from Congress?

Numerous ideas have been floated, but discussions are still very fluid at this moment. Here are some basic concepts that have been discussed so far:

  • Additional resources for small business loans and grants as well as the creation of new loan programs or changes to current programs
  • Funding to address shortfalls in state and local government budgets
  • Legal liability protections for employers and businesses as they adapt to new laws and public health standards
  • Infrastructure funding
  • Additional economic impact payments for individuals
  • Loan programs for large employers affected by the pandemic
  • Funds to support the development of a vaccine and treatment strategies for COVID-19
  • Hazard pay for front-line workers
  • Funding to support states and local governments preparing to hold elections
  • Increases in spending on social safety net programs like SNAP
  • Support for the oil and gas industry

What would you like to see in the next COVID-19 bill from Congress? Email GLI’s Advocacy team and let us know.

When will the next bill get passed?

The short answer is May or June. While there is tremendous urgency behind passing another coronavirus bill, negotiations between Republicans and Democrats, between the House and Senate, and between Congress and the White House will take time. Moreover, if new programs are involved or if already-existing programs are modified, policymakers will need to spend time thinking through the nuances of these proposals in order to avoid unintended consequences.

On April 27, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced that Senators would return to Washington on May 4. House members were originally expected to return on May 4 as well, but, on April 28, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced members would not return on that date due to concerns over safety and the virus. COVID-19 legislation could still be passed in the near future, however; but legislative action would require some procedural maneuvering without members present.