This story was edited on 3/18/20 to include Sen. Marsha Blackburn's statement.
The U.S. Senate confirmed Wednesday a historic aid package designed to help Americans weather the economic storm brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.
The bipartisan bill, known as the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, is estimated to cost $104 billion and passed through the Senate with a vote of 90-8 — Sen. Marsha Blackburn was among the few the senators voting against the piece of legislation. Rep. Mark Green also voted against the bill when it came before the U.S. House on Saturday, where it received a vote of 363-40.
Explaining her vote against the aid package, Blackburn called the bill's inclusion of mandatory paid sick leave "irresponsible," but said that she looked forward to working to pass future legislation that would more "properly address these concerns."
"Tennessee workers and small business owners do not want unfunded federal mandates placed on them while they are struggling to keep their doors open and meet payroll," Blackburn said. "They have told me they desperately need our support for flexibility to create solutions that work for their employees. At a time when revenue has decreased for many, it is irresponsible to implement a one-size-fits-all government mandate requiring employers to provide paid sick leave. Our Tennessee hospitals and our TennCare program have serious concerns with the Medicaid provisions and we are continuing to work with them to meet the needs in our communities."
Green said one of his reasons for voting against the bill was that he was given only 30 minutes to look over the 110 page bill before voting.
“The final version of the bill was submitted to the House around midnight and we voted 30 minutes later,” Green wrote in a post on social media. “That’s correct. 30 minutes to read and analyze a 110 page bill that spent billions of taxpayer dollars and forced a number of mandates onto small businesses. Just a few weeks ago, we passed a bill for $8.3 billion in aid to fight the coronavirus, most of that money isn’t spent yet.”
Green said that President Donald Trump's declaring a National Emergency last week would provide an additional $50 billion from the Disaster Fund that is able to be used toward coronavirus relief efforts. He suggested that a new aid package could always be voted on after having spent the billions of dollars already allocated toward relief efforts.
Nevertheless, the bill will now be sent to Trump’s desk for final approval, with Trump’s past remarks signalling his approval to be likely. His Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was a key player in the bill's assembly in the House.
The bill, which is one of many measures currently being taken by the federal government to help stabilize the economy, would provide paid leave, establish free coronavirus testing, protect public health workers and provide important benefits to children and families.
Among the benefits to children and families include $500 million being allocated toward the access to food for pregnant women or mothers with young children who have lost their jobs due to the coronavirus emergency. An additional $400 million would be used to assist local food banks to meet the increased demand for low-income Americans.
The package helps seniors as well, allotting $250 million toward delivering approximately 25 million home-delivered meals to low-income seniors through the Senior Nutrition program.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) would also be expanded through the aid package, suspending the work and work training eligibility requirements.
Regarding unemployment insurance, the bill provides $1 billion in emergency grants for states to cover unemployment insurance benefits and will also require all employers to provide an additional 14 days of paid sick leave effective immediately upon the bill’s passing.
To read the bill in its entirety, click here.