Minnesotans in Congress lined up Friday behind the $2.2 trillion stimulus package to battle the COVID-19 pandemic, even as they looked ahead to what else is needed to respond to the crisis.
“It’s probably the most important bill a member of Congress has ever voted on,” said Rep. Dean Phillips, a Democrat who represents the western Twin Cities suburbs.
“People are literally losing their lives, getting sick, businesses are shuttering. We need to respond,” said Rep. Pete Stauber, a Republican from northeastern Minnesota.
The House passed the measure Friday by voice vote, following unanimous passage in the U.S. Senate late Wednesday night.
The measure, negotiated by the Trump administration and congressional leaders, includes $500 billion in loans and guarantees to businesses and state and local governments, including about $1.2 billion for Minnesota’s general fund; $350 billion in loans for companies with fewer than 500 employees; $260 billion in emergency unemployment insurance; and $150 billion for health care providers, including direct grants to hospitals.
There are also direct, one-time payments to individuals capped at $1,200 per person, a number that shrinks for those who earn above $75,000 a year; and billions more for disaster relief, schools, transportation systems, veterans, food stamp beneficiaries and numerous other recipients.
While support from Minnesota’s 10-member delegation was on track to be unanimous, Democratic and Republican lawmakers raised concerns, both about what was left out of the package and the process of getting it done.
Rep. Angie Craig, a Democrat who represents southeastern Minnesota including some Twin Cities counties, said there’s not enough money for small towns and cities that are likely to lose major tax revenue due to shuttered businesses in their communities.
“I expect to support the bill and keep fighting for additional needs,” Craig said.
Stauber criticized Democrats for what he described as “a wish list of provisions that have absolutely nothing to do with mitigating the impact of coronavirus.”
The new stimulus package has faced some criticism from the left for what critics have called too much emphasis on bailing out corporations and businesses over helping idled workers.
“The largest corporations stand to access hundreds of billions of dollars with little public oversight,” TakeAction Minnesota, a progressive advocacy and organizing group, said in a news release Thursday. “Meanwhile, the safety net for many classifications of workers and undocumented working families is nonexistent.”
While acknowledging some of those concerns, Rep. Ilhan Omar, a Democrat from Minneapolis, said the crisis is too big to wait.
“We have a package that will help relieve some economic anxieties, help create relief for many parts of our state and country,” Omar said. Still, she said Congress and the Trump administration would likely need to consider more direct relief to individuals.
Rep. Tom Emmer of central Minnesota also supported the stimulus measure. He was one of 40 House Republicans to vote against the prior coronavirus response bill earlier this month, saying lawmakers had been given virtually no time to consider complex, far-reaching legislation.