Trump signs coronavirus relief measure ensuring paid sick, emergency leave

National News

President Donald Trump speaks during press briefing with the Coronavirus Task Force, at the White House, Wednesday, March 18, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

WASHINGTON (ABC) —  President Donald Trump signed an economic relief bill to help combat the coronavirus pandemic, ensuring free testing and paid leave for certain workers hours after the Senate passed the measure on Wednesday.

Lawmakers overwhelmingly voted 90-8 in favor of the “phase two” stimulus measure.

Eight Republican senators opposed the measure, which the Joint Committee on Taxation estimates will cost just north of $100 billion.

Earlier Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell urged his Republican colleagues to support it.

“I do not believe we should let perfection be the enemy of something that will help even a subset of workers,” McConnell said on the Senate floor. “We’re going to pass the House bill, but its imperfections will just make our more comprehensive package more urgent. So we aren’t leaving — everybody understand that — we aren’t leaving, until we deliver.”

He added, “The Senate is not going to leave small business behind.”

The economic relief bill ensures free COVID-19 testing, bolsters unemployment insurance, increases spending on health insurance for the poor and adds $1 billion in food aid.

The agreement includes paid sick days for some employees, as well as three months of paid emergency leave throughout the course of the coronavirus crisis. To help offset the costs for employers, businesses would be reimbursed for some of these costs through tax credits.

Big businesses — those with more than 500 employees — however, are exempted from offering their employees paid sick leave or family leave under the bill.

But Congress is already working on another relief package, with McConnell vowing earlier in the week that the Senate won’t leave town until a third relief package is on the president’s desk.

The third relief package, which Senate Republicans are currently negotiating with the White House, is expected to further bolster relief for small businesses, as well as add targeted relief for certain industries.

The Treasury Department is proposing a nearly $1 trillion package, which would include $50 billion for the airline industry, $150 billion for “distressed sectors of the US economy,” as well as providing $300 billion towards the creation of a small business interruption loan program.

McConnell said this larger, more comprehensive relief bill will also be an effort to “put money directly into the hands” of American workers and families.

But McConnell will certainly need buy-in from Senate Democrats, and eventually, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, to pass what is expected to be one of the largest, most expansive emergency spending packages in American history.

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