$2.2 Trillion COVID-19 Relief Bill Finally Moving Forward
After days of bitterly divisive partisan wrangling over the nation’s third coronavirus relief package, the Senate came together late Wednesday night in a rare display of bipartisan unity and unanimously passed a $2.2 trillion economic rescue plan, the largest in the nation’s history. The bill is intended to buoy and stabilize an economy brought to its knees by waves of federal, state and local social distancing and stay-at-home measures intended to stem the rapidly accelerating spread of the highly contagious coronavirus.
Chastened by criticism of their support for corporate-friendly bailouts during the 2008 economic crash, Democrats fought hard to include provisions that tilted the bill in favor of the average American and safeguarded against abuses of power and unintended financial gain from the taxpayer-funded relief measures.
The bill, which is expected to be voted on by the House on Friday, contains a broad range of assistance across many sectors:
- Cash payments of up to $1,200 to individuals, up to $2,500 for couples, and $500 for each child, for those falling under qualifying income thresholds
- $130 billion in aid for hospitals
- $150 billion for state and local governments
- $367 billion in small business loans
- $500 billion in loans for larger enterprises, including the hard-hit airline industry
- Extension and expansion of unemployment benefits, including for perhaps the first time the nation’s growing legion of contract workers and the self-employed
Earlier this month President Trump signed into law two smaller coronavirus relief packages: An $8 billion healthcare package on March 6 and the $3.5 billion Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which includes paid coronavirus sick leave and free coronavirus testing, on March 18.
A record 3.3 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week.
FDA Expands Hand Sanitizer Production
On Friday, the FDA executed steps to increase alcohol-based hand sanitizer production to combat the shortage. This includes a halted action against companies that produce hand sanitizer. However, regulations regarding sanitary protocol, labeling and ethanol and isopropyl alcohol content will still be enforced.
The FDA has heard requests from companies that are not drug manufacturers but want to produce hand sanitizers. The FDA iterated that these companies must follow the WHO recommendations for using only alcohol, glycerol, hydrogen peroxide and sterile water.
Supreme Courts Closes For First Time in Present History
On March 19, the U.S. The Supreme Court made a historic announcement that it was closing its doors for the first time in 100 years. All oral arguments have also been officially postponed in the name of the public health crisis.
While the March 23 oral argument session has been postponed indefinitely, the highest court in the nation will not sit idle. With oral and in-person cases suspended, the Supreme Court will now refocus on deciding the fates of legal petitions and ruling on appeals cases and other matters of law that can be ruled on paper.
FDA Approves COVID-19 Test from Abbott Laboratories
In an emergency action, the FDA approved COVID-19 tests produced by Abbott Laboratories. The tests will be shipped all over the country. In addition to tests that have already been sent, the company intends to provide up to a million tests each week, starting with 150,000.
The tests are done with the m2000 RealTime System, which can run hundreds of tests per day. The system already exists in some labs and medical facilities, but Abbott has pledged to send more as needed.
To increase coronavirus screening access, the FDA will also allow medical device manufacturers to send out diagnostic tests and lessen restrictions on lab test authorizations with historic latitude. In a 14-page guidance document, the agency noted its relaxed oversight represents an “unprecedented policy” intended to tackle the “urgent public health concerns” of the coronavirus. The FDA also warned consumers about fake tests, asserting that no at-home test kits have been approved.
Justice System Adjusts to Virtual, Remote Working
The most recent draft of the COVID-19 bill would issue $1 billion to the U.S. Department of Justice, with an additional $7.5 million to federal courts. The bill includes provisions that permit teleconferencing for criminal hearings.
The bill addresses the isolation policies enacted as a response to COVID-19, which have forced the justice system to shift to telecommunications. From GlaxoSmithKline’s teleconference update about Zofran lawsuits to video interviews, the use of computers and mobile devices has replaced riskier, in-person exchanges.
As federal and state courthouses nationwide shift to virtual alternatives, the justice system is allowed to continue with varying degrees of success, according to Law360. Some courts have found this transition a seamless and sleek process, while others combat technical glitches and face a learning curve with new software while attempting to process cases.
By MedTruth Editors