March 20, 2020
Following 90-8 Senate passage of a $105-billion House bill to provide economic relief from the coronavirus pandemic, later signed by President Donald Trump, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell introduced a $1-trillion aid proposal. Bloomberg News reported that McConnell had asked the Senate to work at “warp speed” to devise a package that would include direct payment to some taxpayers, loans to the airline industry and grants for small businesses and local governments.
CNN reported that the proposal, which now moves into debate on the Senate floor, “underscores the scale of the economic crisis now facing individuals and businesses across the country amid the accelerating pandemic.” It addresses bolstering healthcare resources, student loans and aid, business tax provisions and temporary authority.
At the heart of the proposal, CNN reported, is hundreds of billions of dollars directed toward “recovery rebates” of up to $1,200 for individuals and $2,400 for couples beneath a certain income threshold.
The 247-page proposal also includes $300 billion to be used for loans to small businesses, along with $50 billion in loans to airlines and another $150 billion for guarantees to other sectors that are now distressed by the fast-spreading COVID-19.
Sectors related to commercial real estate have made the case for inclusion in that number. The International Council of Shopping Centers’ president and CEO, Tom McGee, said in a statement, “The necessary public health and safety actions being taken have required retailers, restaurants, gyms and other service providers to close. These closures are placing an insurmountable strain on our members and we believe federal government action is urgently needed.
“In the most immediate term, we believe the federal government should guarantee or directly pay for business interruption coverage for retailers, restaurants and other tenants, as well as landlords,” McGee continued. “While some companies may have third-party insurance, the current crisis is not covered by those policies.”
At the American Hotel & Lodging Association, president and CEO Chip Rogers said this week, “The impact to our industry is already more severe than anything we’ve seen before, including September 11th and the great recession of 2008 combined. The White House and Congress can take urgent action to protect countless jobs, provide relief to our dedicated and hardworking employees, and ensure that our small business operators and franchise owners – who represent more than half of hotels in the country – can keep their doors open.”
The National Restaurant Association called the epidemic “the greatest crisis our industry has ever faced. Economic forecasts indicate that restaurants and the foodservice industry could sustain $225 billion in losses and eliminate five to seven million jobs over the next three months.”
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin called on the Senate to take action on the $1-trillion relief proposal by early next week. Meanwhile, though, the epidemic is far from over. California Gov. Gavin Newsom said Thursday that more than half his state’s residents could be infected with COVID-19 over the next eight weeks.
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