Trump may add strings to virus bailouts; new travel alert

Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., is surrounded by reporters as he stops to talk with them following a Republican policy lunch on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, March 19, 2020. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

CASA GRANDE – Federal aid for families, small businesses, healthcare facilities and local governments may be coming soon.

The U.S. Congress has passed and President Donald Trump has signed two bills into law that provide emergency resources and funding to schools, businesses, healthcare facilities and local governments. Congress is currently working on a third bill that is supposed to include additional resources for small and large businesses and financial help for individuals and families, according to The Hill, a news website that covers Congress.

The first bill to pass, HR 6074, provided a total of $8.3 billion in funding for vaccine, drug and testing research, funding for public health agencies including Native American nations, money to purchase medical supplies and low-interest loans for small businesses. It also allowed seniors to use telemedicine services for treatment of the coronavirus and made sure that state and local governments will be reimbursed for their costs.

The second bill, HR 6201, requires all health insurance, Medicare and Medicaid and healthcare provided through the U.S. military and U.S. Veterans Affairs to provide free testing for the coronavirus. It also made it easier for families to sign up for the federal Women, Infants and Children food program and suspended work requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which provides funding to purchase food for low-income families.

The bill also provided additional funding for the WIC program, a program that provides funds to food banks and for a program that provides meals to low-income seniors or the disabled.

It also allows the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which is in charge of many of the federal food assistance programs, to authorize states to provide additional benefits to families on the SNAP program if their child’s school has been closed for at least five consecutive days and the child gets a free or reduced price meal at the school. The department can also give schools and senior centers a waiver to provide food on a to-go basis instead of inside a building.

This bill also expanded the nation’s Family Medical Leave Act to allow employers with fewer than 500 employees, to pay employees who have had to: quarantine themselves because of the virus, take care of someone who is quarantined because of the virus or take care of a child whose school has closed. Businesses have to give the employee full pay for at least two weeks. After two weeks, the business can reduce the pay to two-thirds of the employee’s full pay. It also gives these businesses a tax break to cover the cost of paying for employees who take a leave under the act.

States also get $1 billion in funding to help cover the cost of unemployment benefits for people who are laid off and offers states interest-free loans to cover additional unemployment costs.

Congress is also negotiating a third bill that would include loans to small businesses that would not need to be paid back to help them through the crisis, according to The Hill.

The new bill is also expected to include a request from President Trump to provide money directly to individuals and families.The funds may have an income cap that would prevent individuals who make over a certain income from being able to apply for the money.

The bill may also include relief funding for larger businesses, such as airlines, that are being hit hard by the crisis.

The exact details of the bill are supposed to be revealed sometime today.