By Catholic News Agency, March 26, 2020
The Senate passed a massive relief package Wednesday night to counter the economic damage caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The measure passed unopposed, and contained provisions excluding abortion providers like Planned Parenthood from access to funding for elective abortions.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed the Senate by a vote of 96-0 late Thursday evening. Not voting were Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who tested positive for the coronavirus on Sunday, and Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), who reportedly did not attend the vote because he was feeling unwell.
Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Mitt Romney (R-Utah) have self-quarantined in recent days, as a precaution after having had contact with Sen. Paul.
The House plans to vote on the package on Friday, as members will need time to travel to Washington, D.C. to vote.
The bailout package includes: direct checks to taxpayers of up to $1200; grants and loans to small businesses for payroll and rent; temporary expansion of unemployment insurance; funding for hospitals and health care clinics; and authorization for the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department to send several trillion dollars to “distressed” industries such as the airline industry.
Volunteer health care workers will be protected from liability under the Good Samaritan provision.
On Thursday, the Department of Labor reported that unemployment insurance claims had soared to their highest-recorded seasonally-adjusted levels of almost 3.3 million.
Negotiations over language for funding of abortion providers continued on Thursday, with the final version that passed the Senate including protections against taxpayer funding of elective abortions, as well as a provision blocking Planned Parenthood from receiving small business loans.
Under the provision, non-profits such as Planned Parenthood would not be eligible for small business loans for coronavirus relief if they have more than 500 employees, a requirement which is already a part of affiliation rules for the Small Business Administration.
Planned Parenthood Action tweeted out on Wednesday that senators were “exploiting a public health crisis to target sexual and reproductive care” and that the bill “expands the discriminatory Hyde Amendment.”
The Hyde Amendment—which bars taxpayer funding of elective abortions—was specifically extended to certain health care funding provisions in the bill.
It covers $100 billion in supplemental discretionary health funding for hospitals and health care providers, an extension of mandatory funding for community health centers, and $150 billion in a coronavirus relief fund for states.
“Have been pouring [sic] over the text of the relief bill. I’m not happy negotiators took out language that excluded Planned Parenthood from receiving government subsidies. But I have been assured Planned Parenthood will still NOT be eligible,” Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) tweeted on Wednesday afternoon.
The acting president of Planned Parenthood Action, Alexis McGill Johnson, responded that she was “appalled” to see senators “continue to exploit this pandemic to attack reproductive health care.”
This article first appeared HERE.