Senate approves $2 trillion stimulus bill aimed at stabilizing economy amid growing coronavirus fears

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RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Until this month, Jenni Propst says she never struggled to find work.

“I was so busy that I barely ever had a day off,” she said. She works as a stagehand in the entertainment industry.

As the novel coronavirus spread in the United States, venues abruptly closed. For the first time, not only was she out of work, but she had no clear indication when the next job would come.

“In the course of a day, I canceled thousands and thousands of jobs. So, not only was I out of work but I had to tell thousands of people that they also had lost their jobs,” she said.

She’s been closely watching how Congress and North Carolina’s legislature responds to the crisis.

The U.S. Senate passed an unprecedented $2 trillion bill aimed at stabilizing the economy that would provide direct relief to people like Propst.

It includes $600 per week in unemployment benefits on top of what the state provides for four months. In addition, it provides direct payments of $1,200 per person ($2,400 per married couple) and $500 per child. That amount drops for individuals earning more than $75,000 and married couples earning more than $150,000.

Since March 16, 195,661 people in North Carolina have filed for unemployment benefits, including 29,018 on Wednesday alone. According to the NC Division of Employment Security, about 88 percent of people have cited COVID-19 as the reason.

“The whole idea with this one-time payment is to help people bridge the gap while we fight the virus,” said Sen. Thom Tillis (R-North Carolina).

A group of Republican senators raised concerns Wednesday that the bill would provide more for some people in unemployment than they would get if they were working. Sen. Tillis voted in favor of a measure that would cap the unemployment benefits at 100 percent of a person’s salary, but that provision was not included in the bill that ultimately passed the Senate.

The bill includes $1.25 billion that will go directly to North Carolina’s state government as well as local governments to aid in the response to the COVID-19 outbreak, according to Daniel Keylin, a spokesman for Sen. Tillis.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the House is expected to approve the bill Friday.

It’s the latest and largest round of funding to help states battle the coronavirus pandemic.

With additional bills that already have passed, the fiscal research division of North Carolina’s legislature found the state is receiving $13.8 million for local health departments to monitor the spread of the disease and get supplies; $13.9 million for WIC, which provides assistance for low-income pregnant women and mothers with young kids to buy food; $210-$225 million per quarter under Medicaid and NC Health Choice.

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