The House overwhelmingly passed a $484 billion spending package Thursday as the unemployment crisis deepened, a stark illustration of how policymakers continue trying to rescue an unraveling economy amid growing despair.
The legislation, approved 388-5, would restart a small-business loan program that was swamped by demand and allocate more money for health-care providers and virus testing. The vote was historic, as many lawmakers wore masks on the House floor, some even speaking through face coverings as they delivered impassioned remarks.
Just hours earlier, the Labor Department announced that 4.4 million Americans sought unemployment benefits last week. More than 26 million people have filed jobless claims since the novel Coronavirus knocked the U.S. economy off course last month, beginning an extraordinary economic tailspin.
Once signed into law, the legislation will bring the government’s emergency response to an unprecedented total of more than $2.5 trillion across four bills. After days of sniping over what the measure should include, lawmakers replenished a key $350 billion small business aid program that dried up last week.
As they look ahead to the next legislation, Democratic leaders have called for hazard pay for Americans still required to go into their workplaces, national mail-in ballots to make voting safer and money to rescue the U.S. Postal Service. Trump has pushed for a sprawling infrastructure plan — an area where he and Democrats have failed to reach accord so far in his presidency — along with incentives for restaurant and entertainment spending and a payroll tax cut.
Republican congressional leaders, meanwhile, have grown more wary of spending as the government tab during the crisis approaches $3 trillion.