WASHINGTON (FOX Carolina) - In a unanimous vote late Wednesday evening, the U.S. Senate approved the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or the CARES Act. The act is only the third phase of emergency funding amidst the coronavirus pandemic, and must still pass a final vote in the House of Representatives.
Senators from the Carolinas and Georgia announced as the votes were tallied their support of the bill, though some concerns with parts of the bill were noted.
Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) applauded the bill, saying the new package will direct funding to where it's needed most. Most notably, the CARES Act provides direct checks to American citizens.
“Our ability to confront the coronavirus pandemic in the coming weeks depends on the action we take today. Doctors, nurses, small businesses, and families are all facing unprecedented strain and need immediate resources to weather this storm. This emergency funding package will provide immediate liquidity to struggling businesses and families, help stabilize our nation’s key industries, and expand unemployment insurance. Most importantly, this bill supports the brave health care workers and first responders fighting the coronavirus outbreak on the frontlines," Burr's statement read.
Thom Tillis (R-NC) also praised the passage on the bill, outlining his thoughts on what he believes need to be next steps regarding response to the pandemic.
“I think the first thing we have to do is look at what’s happened with each of the three phases that we have passed. The $8 billion that went to health care facilities and federal, state, and local governments, the bill we passed to provide some certainty for paid family leave, and some certainty for individuals, and now this bill which, actually pushes nearly $2 trillion dollars into the American economy. We need to take a look at how this is working, and also keep track at how well we are fighting the virus, and then be prepared to do as many other phases as we need to, hopefully none, but we have to be prepared to respond as we learn more about the virus and the economy’s reaction to this latest bill," Tillis said.
A joint statement from senators David Perdue (R-GA) and Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) echoed Burr's applause, although they note their own concerns.
"While this Phase Three COVID-19 response package is not perfect, it provides historic liquidity to protect American workers and employers. Businesses large and small are struggling to keep people on the payroll and cover their overhead. The purpose of this additional package is to maintain the relationship between employers and employees and inject enough capital into our communities, so there is a leverage effect to help everyone. We cannot let a liquidity crisis turn into an insolvency crisis," Perdue's statement read, in part.
Loeffler, however, expressed disdain for Democratic colleagues for holding out on the bill, saying "I’m extremely disappointed that the amendment to fix the unemployment insurance provisions failed and it’s disheartening that Democrats held this emergency stimulus package hostage to their big government vision. After days of their delays, we are now taking action to protect our health care professionals, strengthen our hospitals and treatments, and support hardworking families and small businesses who are the heartbeat of America."
Tim Scott (R-SC) also took time to lambast Democrats, opening his statement saying “Finally, after days of Democrats playing political games, relief is coming for families, workers, small businesses, and health care professionals across South Carolina and the country."
Lindsey Graham (R-SC) also discussed the monetary aid the bill provides, saying “The economic stabilization fund will leverage up to $4 trillion in private capital to sustain jobs and speed an economic recovery. Grants to small business will help save millions from bankruptcy. Direct payments to individuals and families, along with unemployment benefits, will keep peoples lights on and refrigerators stocked. Help is on the way to the doctors and nurses who are in need of medical supplies, as this bill includes significant funding directed to help them."
However, Graham noted an amendment introduced by Ben Sasse (R-NE), failed to make the cut. Graham says that amendment would prevent some individuals from making more money from unemployment benefits than they would working a 40-hour-per-week job. That amendment failed in a deadlocked 48-48 vote.
“If we don’t change this provision, we will have created a great incentive for people to leave the workforce. Under the current setup, some people’s wages could actually be temporarily increased by 150 percent by leaving the workforce," Graham said. "This is a perverse inventive which needs to be fixed."