HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — The $1.9 trillion COVID relief package passed the Senate on Saturday, and Democrats are expected to pass it through the House this week.
It was a vote along party lines, 50 to 49. Democratic Sen. Bob Casey told abc27 News there was no time to waste, whether it had Republican support or not.
Money for schools, vaccinations and people is how Casey sees the nearly $2 trillion relief package.
“This is a significant investment in putting the virus behind us and opening schools and helping a lot of individuals, a lot of families across the country that are hurting,” Casey said.
Casey says $130 billion will go toward schools reopening.
“There’s a lot of politicians on the Republican side in Washington saying, they’re yelling at school districts to open up and yelling at governors and the like and they’re not willing to vote for the money to open up the schools safely,” Casey said.
Republican Sen. Pat Toomey says it’s wasteful spending.
“6 out of the 128 is going to be spent this year. The other $122 billion, years to come into the future. This has nothing to do with COVID or reopening or the economy,” Toomey said.
Democrats did have to make some concessions to get everyone on board, including West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin. One thing Casey didn’t agree with was lowering unemployment benefits from $400 to $300.
“Despite the fact that it was lowered, they did add a provision that says you will not be taxed on your unemployment insurance up to $10,200. That’s significant,” Casey said.
Toomey says the economy is on track to grow and throwing money to the wind isn’t the solution.
“It’s their big wish list and they feel like this is the last train leaving the station that we can pretend is about COVID,” Toomey said.
The plan has as much as $8 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program, $13.5 billion for veterans’ healthcare, and a new funding allocation for home and community-based services.
“$12.5 billion is a really good start, but we’ve got to do more to invest in the caregiving workforce,” Casey said. We’ve got to do more to help seniors and people with disabilities get these services in a setting that they want, in the home or in the community.”
If the bill passes the House and gets to the president’s desk by the middle of the week, the U.S. Treasury Department could get the stimulus checks out in a matter of days.