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US House passes $480 billion bill to aid small businesses during pandemic
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US House passes $480 billion bill to aid small businesses during pandemic

The US House of Representatives passed a $480 billion dollar bill (HR 266) Thursday to assist small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill was passed by the Senate on Tuesday and will now move on to be signed by President Donald Trump.

The bill amends the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which was originally passed in March allocating $350 billion to US small businesses. According to the Small Business Administration (SBA), as of April 17, more than 1.6 billion small businesses had received money from the PPP in order to cover payroll and other operating costs.

Section B of HR 266 sets aside $75 billion in emergency appropriations to a Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund “to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus, domestically or internationally, for necessary expenses to reimburse, through grants or other mechanisms, eligible health care providers for health care related expenses or lost revenues that are attributable to coronavirus.” Section B also sets aside an extra $25 billion for COVID-19 testing specifically.

The bill was passed in the House by a vote of 388-5. The bill has been criticized for failing to close a loophole which allows publicly traded corporations to receive funds from the PPP. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) voted against the bill and said on the floor of the House Thursday:

It is a joke when Republicans say that they have urgency around this bill. The only folks they have urgency around are folks like Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse and Shake Shack. Those are the people getting assistance in this bill. [Republicans] are not trying to fix this bill for mom and pops. And we have to fight to fund hospitals, [fight] to fund testing. That is what we are fighting for in this bill. It is unconscionable. If [Republicans] had urgency, you would legislate like rent was due on May first and make sure that we include rent and mortgage relief for our constituents.

For more on COVID-19, see our special coverage.