By Michael Hernandez
WASHINGTON (AA) – The House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a critical bill Thursday to aid American small businesses and buttress the US health response to the novel coronavirus.
The 388-5 vote now sends the $484 billion measure to President Donald Trump to sign into law after the Senate passed it on Tuesday. One representative voted present.
"Today was an historic day for us to once again pass our now fourth bipartisan legislation to address the coronavirus crisis," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters shortly after the vote concluded.
Trump has signaled his eagerness to sign off on the funding amid a daunting economic crisis caused by the novel coronavirus.
In addition to funding a small business loan program, the package also includes spending for national coronavirus testing and assistance for hospitals in the midst of the pandemic.
The package provides a badly-needed injection of cash for the Paycheck Protection Program, a small business loan initiative that ran out of money last week after being created by lawmakers in March.
Successive state governments have enacted rules mandating the closure of non-essential businesses and orders to keep residents at home in an effort to prevent the further spread of the coronavirus. That has resulted in a widespread economic downturn which has imperiled state and local economies and put some 26 million people out of work.
The small business loan program was created with an initial $350 billion, which was quickly consumed, showing the dire need for additional aid as states continue to wrangle with the processes they will undertake to reopen their economies — balanced against health safety concerns.
Additionally, it includes $75 billion for hospitals to aid them and their health workers as they treat coronavirus patients and $25 billion for national testing.
With Thursday's bill, the federal legislature has passed four separate spending bills totaling $3 trillion as lawmakers seek to triage the economic bloodletting.
In addition to the spending package, the House also authorized 212-182 along party lines the creation of a panel to monitor how the massive funding is spent by the federal government.
Democratic congressman Jim Clyburn will oversee the Select Committee on the Coronavirus Crisis, Pelosi said when she announced the committee on April 2.