Last night the Senate passed the $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, (CARES Act), by a vote of 96 to 0. This rescue package will now be considered by the House, which, according to the latest reports, will likely vote on the legislation this Friday.
The bill, which is 883 pages long, will provide immediate assistance to American workers and companies impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. For the 3.28 million Americans who filed initial unemployment claims last week, this is welcome, and much-needed legislative action that includes extended unemployment benefits, direct cash payments, small business loans, among other emergency assistance.
Like any complex legislation that is passed so quickly, it will take time to fully digest the implications of all of the provisions, many of which have not been debated or widely discussed. Among them is a section that has received little notice to date that, if included in the bill when it is signed into law by the president, gives agencies the authority to provide relief to government contractors by authorizing them to pay contractors for paid leave, including sick leave, to maintain employees in a ready state during the shutdown.