Finally: Senate Strikes Deal on Largest Stimulus Package in U.S. History

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Together with representatives from the Trump administration, senators finally reached an agreement in the wee hours of the night on late Tuesday/early Wednesday to push forward a $2 trillion stimulus package that will send direct payments and unemployment benefits to millions of Americans. The legislation, which also aims to help companies and states deal with the financial fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, is expected to go into effect by the end of the week. In the meantime, all eyes will move to the House of Representatives, where the deal must still be voted on to put it through to President Trump’s desk.

“At last we have a deal,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced on the Senate floor at 1:30 a.m. “In effect, this is a wartime level of investment into our nation.”

Across the aisle, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said, “This is not a moment of celebration, but one of necessity. To all Americans I say, ‘Help is on the way.’”

He did not say (but could have), “It would have been here sooner, but we tried to stuff the bill full of nonsense like DACA amnesty and Green New Deal wish-listing. Sorry ‘bout that.”

The measure as it stands is focused on helping workers and businesses who are watching their income dry up overnight due to a combination of forced shutdowns and natural customer dropoff – both due to the coronavirus. If the economic stimulus works as intended, it could help the American economy come roaring back once all this is in the rearview mirror. Without it, it’s not an exaggeration to say we could see one of the worst recessions in American history, and we could even see entire industries go under.

The package includes direct financial support for small businesses and enormous corporations, and it includes direct checks to individuals and families in the middle class and below. The legislation is also stuffed with measured aimed at helping companies keep employees on the payroll even if they can’t open for business during the shutdown. It will also bulk up unemployment insurance for those workers laid off due to the crisis.

While 90% of the American workforce will receive a check somewhere in the neighborhood of $1200, it’s unclear when those checks might arrive. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin recently promised that we would start getting the checks within two weeks, but that might be an optimistic timeline. Previous rounds of stimulus checks, such as the one President Bush authorized in 2001, took more than six weeks to reach American bank accounts. A second round of checks in 2008, after the financial crisis, took nearly three months to start rolling out. Americans may not see the money authorized by this bill until May.

It could be that the economic outlook at that time appears much different than it does today. Whether better or far worse, though, we can only wait and see.